Update May 23, 2:15 EST: Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote! The landslide victory for the gay rights movement is a historic moment for Ireland. With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. At this point, it appears to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the pro-votes. Update: The votes are still being counted, but Ireland appears to have approved same-sex marriage by a landslide. The leaders of the No campaign have conceded defeat, crowds have already gathered in major cities to celebrate, and the only question now is the size of the victory. One politician, who came out during the marriage equality campaign, told the Guardian, "It’s a gigantic step along the road of a very long journey and it’s a day where the Irish people will have wide open arms, and embraced us like I never thought they would do it with such strength and generosity.” This story was originally published on May 22, 2015 at 2:20 pm.
After months of campaigning and debate, Ireland is finally voting on whether to legalize same-sex marriage, and the world is waiting to see if the nation will be the first to approve marriage equality through a popular vote. While the results aren't expected until Saturday afternoon, CNN reports that opinion polls have shown overwhelming support of changing the constitution.
Those polls have narrowed recently, but supporters of marriage equality are cautiously optimistic about their chances in the Catholic country. Moninne Griffith, director of Marriage Equality, told us that she's heard reports of lines at polling stations and of record voter turnout in some places, which bodes well for the cause, largely thanks to support among younger voters. "We know from our research that the younger voters are overwhelmingly supportive [of same-sex marriage]. That’s a good sign for us," she said. Kelly, a 28-year-old woman from Dublin, told us that her reasons for voting "yes" are simple: “I believe in equality,” she said in an email. “My siblings can get engaged, married, and have children; these are big celebrations in family life. I want the same for me. I don't want to feel different or be treated different.” Many young Irish citizens are so determined to show their support that they've traveled back to Ireland from all over the world in order to cast their ballots. Ireland has no absentee voting, so airports and train stations have been packed with travelers trying to get home in time to vote. The hashtag #hometovote is filled with photos and videos of trains full of jubilant men and women eager to make history and support their LGBT friends and loved ones.
But, there has been a much uglier side to the campaign. On Thursday, Irish Times journalist Una Mullally shared a hateful letter she had received from a "no" voter. The letter not only insulted Mullally for being gay, but it also suggested that her recent cancer diagnosis was divine retribution. The response to Mullally has been overwhelmingly positive, but it was a shocking reminder of what's at stake in the referendum. Though 17 nations and parts of the U.S. have already legalized same-sex marriage, LGBT people still face discrimination, criminalization, and violence in many countries. For Griffith, success would send a strong message to LGBT people all over the world that there are reasons to be hopeful and keep fighting, as she plans to do no matter what happens. The movement "seems to have captured something in the Irish imagination," she said. "It's captured so much love and positivity and solidarity, and I really hope it continues."