Ireland has voted to legalize same-sex marriages following a vote held Saturday. Early estimates showed that over 60 percent of the Irish electorate voted "Yes" in support of a referendum that would allow for same-sex marriages in their constitution, and a final tally of all constituencies confirmed the result, RTE News reports. Ireland joins the over 20 countries worldwide to have completely legalized same-sex marriages, and in doing so becomes the first nation to approve of the measure by popular vote.
As a result of Saturday's vote, the Irish Constitution will change its stance on marriages to reflect that a union between two people would be legal "without distinction as to their sex," the New York Times reports. Although the official polls had not been fully tallied, the Iona Institute's David Quinn, the leader of one of the groups opposing the referendum's passage in Ireland, conceded in atweet early Saturday, "Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done." The Iona Institute also issued a statement acknowledging the "No" defeat.
"It is about how we value and treat the gay community in Ireland," Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney told The Irish Times. "So many human stories and so many families are caught up in this and are waiting with bated breath for the result." Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, who announced earlier this year that he was gay and was at the forefront of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage, told The Irish Times, "I wanted to be an equal citizen in my own country and today I am."
"It's a historic day for Ireland. We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and to do so by popular mandate. So it's a very proud day I think for Irish people," Varadkar added. "That makes us a beacon of equality and liberty to the rest of the world." Varadkar noted that in Dublin, 71 percent of voters supported the referendum.
Before voting took place in Ireland, Dublin's own U2 penned a statement on their official site encouraging Irish fans to vote "Yes" for same-sex marriage. "Commitment, love and devotion are some of the most impossibly great human traits. Trying to co-opt the word marriage is like trying to make love or devotion gender- or religion-specific. And that has to stop," U2 wrote May 21st. "Marriage is human-specific: a human commitment, one that transcends religion, transcends politics. It should be encouraged wherever, whenever and between whomever that love, that devotion and that commitment exists. #voteYES."
Ed Sheeran also voiced his support for the referendum, while Sam Smith tweeted, "So happy Ireland have passed the law to get married there. Still genuinely shocks me though, that this is only just happening!!"
Author J.K. Rowling also tweeted as it became clear that the "Yes" side was victorious, "Sitting here watching the Irish make history. Extraordinary and wonderful." Actor Neil Patrick Harris added, "I proudly raise a pint glass of Guinness and toast the people of Ireland for voting by a sweeping majority to legalize same sex marriage!"