Ireland Overwhelmingly Votes ‘Yes’ On Referendum So That Gay Couples Can Say ‘I Do’

Ireland made history on Saturday. This feisty, predominantly Catholic country became the first nation in the world to approve gay marriage by popular vote.

It was no contest. In the highest turnout in two decades, 62% of voters said “yes” to a referendum that makes same-sex marriages legal.

Gay cabinet member Leo Varadkar said:

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish.”

In Dublin, where the measure was supported by 70% of the voters, a massive street party broke out when the results were announced, filling the pubs and nightclubs. Prime Minister Enda Kenny celebrated with these words:

“With today’s vote, we have disclosed who we are: a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people.”

That joy broke out everywhere. The landslide victory was attributed by many to young, first-time voters who were mobilized by social media. More than a few called the result a “social revolution.” Among them was Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who lamented:

“The church needs to do a reality check right across the board. Have we drifted completely away from young people? Most of those people who voted ‘yes’ are products of our Catholic schools for 12 years.”

The outcome is a sign of how much the Catholic Church is losing its hold on the Irish people. Until twenty years ago, voters supported a ban on divorce, and the ban on abortion still stands — at least, for now. Homosexuality was a criminal act in the country until 1993. But the sex abuse scandals within the Church have undermined religious leaders’ authority on social issues.

Michael Martin, leader of the Fianna Fail party — which usually supports the Catholic Church — said:

“It’s simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality.”

The Irish wholeheartedly agree. Of the country’s 43 parliamentary constituencies, only one voted No. While some feared the issue would cause an urban/rural split, that didn’t happen.

Gay rights activists worked for years to develop a grassroots network throughout Ireland. Their determined registration drive added 100,000 new voters since November. Activist Colm O’Gorman pointed out:

“Commentators just don’t seem to have grasped that this has been the culmination of a 10-year campaign to change attitudes in this country.:

The fact that it changed attitudes so emphatically apparently took both sides by surprise. Sen. David Norris has fought to win equality for forty years and was instrumental in the decriminalization of homosexuality. His pride in the outcome reflected the sentiment of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen and women. He said:

“The people in this small island off the western coast of Europe have said to the rest of the world: This is what it is to be decent, to be civilized, and to be tolerant! And let the rest of the world catch up!”

May the light from their beacon shine across the Atlantic Ocean and hit the U.S. Supreme Court justices squarely in the eye.

Featured image via @tattoedagger on Twitter.