Ireland was in the international spotlight on Friday as voters were considering a referendum to allow gay marriage, raising the possibility that Ireland could be the first country to approve gay marriage by popular vote.
Despite opposition from Catholic leaders, the referendum was expected to be approved, based on opinion polls, The Associated Press
reported. Voter turnout was higher than usual, with some Irish residents making long journeys from other countries to weigh in on the decision. Social media posts showed widespread support for the referendum.
Results were expected to be announced Saturday.
All political parties back the proposal, along with many big employers and celebrities, Reuters
reported, and opinion polls indicate the referendum could pass by a two-to-one margin.
"My message to people is that if you believe in equality, do not be complacent, do not leave it to others," said Prime Minister Enda Kenny. "Say yes, yes to inclusion, yes to rights, yes to love, yes to equality. Take away those burdens for people and let them be who they are."
Ireland was among the last countries to decriminalize homosexuality in 1993. Approval of same-sex marriage would signify a rapid political shift in the country, The New York Times reported
Many were watching for voting trends across demographics, with elderly, rural, conservative voters expected to be more likely to oppose the referendum.
"You can give the gays their rights without redefining the whole institution of marriage. What they're asking for is too much," 61-year-old Bridget Ryan said, according to the AP.
Twitter users showed enthusiasm about the historic vote.
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