Irish referendum on gay marriage underway

At this very moment, voters in Ireland are headed to the polls to determine whether same-sex marriage will be a constitutionally protected right for all citizens. If the referendum passes, it would mark the first occasion ever for same-sex marriage to be approved by a national referendum in any country. That means that this represents a historic test to advance the rights of LGBT people that should command attention whether or not one follows politics on the Emerald Isle.

Voting in Ireland ends at 10pm, which means preliminary exit polls may be released as early as 5pm EST. We’ll be live-tweeting updates on the referendum throughout the day.

Irish voters would become the first to approve  same-sex marriage by way of the popular vote in part due to the peculiarities of the Irish Constitution. To date, each of the 18 or so (depending on how you count) countries that have already legalized gay marriage have decided to do so through the courts — as the U.S. Supreme Court looks set to do this June. However, any change to the Irish constitution must be voted up or down by the electorate, and despite the fact that “civil partnerships” have been legal in Ireland for some time, putting same-sex marriage into the constitution will ensure that the government continues to respect these unions with an ironclad guarantee. Otherwise, the policy may be subject to a lengthy appeals process and challenged in the Irish Supreme Court.

Referenda in Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia all produced negative results for same-sex marriage supporters, though the Slovenian legislature passed a law approving marriage equality earlier this year that has yet to take effect.

So far, there have been 35 proposed amendments to the Irish constitution, many of which deal with social issues. The island nation banned abortion, for example, in 1983, and subsequent referenda in 1992 and 2002 have sought to expand or contract those restrictions. In 1986, Irish voters chose not to lift a constitutional ban on divorce by a large margin; that changed in 1996, when attitudes had shifted sufficiently that the ban was removed by similarly large margins. Likewise, 62% of Irish voters chose to prohibit the death penalty in 2002. So legislating hot-button social questions by referenda is nothing new in Ireland, though history has shown that the voters are willing to change their minds, too.

A predominantly Catholic nation, Ireland may not seem like it would be the first nation to accept same-sex marriage by the popular vote, but preliminary polling suggests that a Yes vote approving marriage equality is the likely outcome of the day. All of the major political parties in Ireland, including the leadership of center-right Fine Gael, support the Yes Equality campaign.

Still, as an excellent Guardian article points out, history shows that the polling on these matters has been wrong before in Ireland. This March, 66% percent of voters saw themselves voting Yes on the referendum versus 24% who would vote No. That gap has shrunk slightly in the interim. It is possible that some voters who are agnostic about marriage may say one thing when asked publicly but vote another way when in private. And as always, turnout here will be key, with many young Irish emigrants returning home to turn in their votes today as well.

As of this moment, nothing should be taken for granted. Expect this crucial Irish referendum to be a nail-biter until the very end.


James Neimeister is a freelance writer from Ohio. His interests include: Russia, Ukraine, education, technology, and "cyberspace."

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24 Responses to “Irish referendum on gay marriage underway”

  1. 2karmanot says:

    So true!

  2. The results are rather pleasing.

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  4. GarySFBCN says:

    No, they ruled a few years ago, and Rajoy said that it was time for PP to move on.

  5. TampaZeke says:

    The English can’t even hold a candle to the violence, injustice, oppression and cultural genocide that the Roman Catholic Cult imposed upon the Emerald Isle. This vote is casting off some of the last remaining shackles.

  6. mirth says:

    Dlisted posts this pic of the sky over Dublin yesterday during the vote.

  7. nicho says:

    Looks like it’s final — Yes – 62, No – 38. What a great day! (Made even better by the fact NOM wasted more money and got their asses handed to them.)

  8. mirth says:

    From your link, here’s how Ireland voted:

  9. mirth says:

    By a unique and landslide popular vote, the voice of Ireland has spoken on their demand for citizen equality.

    Today, even more than every day, I am tremendously proud to be of Irish ancestry.

  10. 2karmanot says:

    A thousand years of English violence, injustice, oppression and cultural genocide have made the Irish, above all, hyper sensitive to justice. This is among her finest hours! Erin Go Bragh.

  11. FLL says:

    When Irish eyes are smiling… When Irish hearts are happy, etc.

    Jonathan Swift, the Anglo-Irish writer, is only one example of Ireland’s brilliant tradition of satire. The “Yes” vote won, and one of the campaign’s very best videos is “Armagayddon,” a satirical look (two years in the future) at a terrified and logically-challenged straight couple who voted “No.” Often, the most effective way to expose those who use pretext to hide their desire for a hate-based result is ridicule. The link to the video is here.

  12. TruthNotReligion says:

    RESULTS are coming in.


  13. nicho says:

    It’s still in front of their supreme court, though. If I’m not mistaken. Otherwise, the fascists, with their absolute majority, would have overturned it by now. They want to, but I believe they can’t change the law as long as the court is considering it.

  14. nicho says:

    You can stop biting your nails and start polishing them. So far, not one district has recorded a “no” majority. Dublin County went 70 percent in favor. What a kick in the nuts for the Catholic church — not that they don’t deserve it.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    We won. Free Ireland is even more free.

  16. MaryPFerguson says:

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  17. Bill_Perdue says:

    FYI –

  18. GarySFBCN says:

    10 years ago in Spain, same-sex marriage became legal via the legislative process. It too is seen as a predominately Catholic country, although it is really culturally Catholic and not all that religious.

  19. mirth says:

    The Guardian also reporting higher turnout in urban areas where Yes votes are more likely and lower in rural areas where No votes would be more likely.

  20. Bill_Perdue says:

    Turnout is higher than expected.

  21. Butch1 says:

    Good luck to you, Ireland! Don’t let the naysayers get you down.

  22. Jimmy says:

    Of course, this comes down to getting people to vote. Preliminary reporting is showing this is divided on generations lines, which younger voter overwhelming voting yes and older voters going against. Like the US, younger voters I Ireland tend not to vote. Still, there is certainly room to be optimistic.

  23. Hue-Man says:

    “To date, each of the 18 or so (depending on how you count) countries that have already legalized gay marriage have decided to do so through the courts”

    France is one country that legislated marriage equality without court action. Canada sort of did the same since the Supreme Court didn’t rule on its constitutionality, following successful challenges in the highest courts in Ontario, B.C., Quebec, etc. (but NOT Alberta).

  24. Bill_Perdue says:

    Éirinn go Brách.

    Féadfaidh beirt, cibé acu is fir nó mná iad, conradh a dhéanamh i leith pósadh de réir dlí. Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.

    Most Irish parties support passage of the 34th Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic.

    Good luck to our brothers and sisters in free Ireland.

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