May 23, 2015 at 7:41 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Ireland same-sex marriage referendum passes

Enda Kenny, Ireland, gay news, Washington Blade

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny voted in support of same-sex marriage on May 22, 2015. (Photo by the World Economic Forum; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Ireland has become the first country in which same-sex couples have received marriage rights through a popular vote.

The Irish Independent is reporting the referendum passed by a 62-38 percent margin.

“It is about removing discrimination,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told NBC News during an interview after voting in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. “It is about removing inequality. It’s historic, and that’s why I’ll be voting yes.”

“Today we are truly a nation of equals,” said YesEquality, the campaign in support of the referendum, in a statement on their website. “The people of Ireland have exercised their Constitutional right and by direct vote they have said an emphatic ‘yes’ to equality.”

Reports indicate thousands of Irish residents who live abroad returned to their homeland in order to vote in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Catholic Church is among those that led opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians.

“We would like to congratulate the yes side on winning such a handsome victory in the marriage referendum,” said the Iona Institute, which opposes same-sex marriage, in a statement it issued on Saturday. “They fought a very professional campaign that in truth began long before the official campaign started.”

Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign was in Ireland this week working with local LGBT rights advocates in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. He told the Washington Blade on Saturday in an email from Dublin, the Irish capital, the referendum results stem from “an amazing campaign that brought the entire country together — from young allies in Dublin to grandparents in Donegal.”

“This is not just a day for Ireland to celebrate, but also a day of significance for people around the world,” said Cobb. “It gives hope to those who feel marginalized that if Ireland can change so can the world.”

Homosexuality was criminalized in Ireland until the early 1990s.

Brian Beary, a gay member of D.C. Front Runners who is originally from Dublin, told the Blade on Saturday during a telephone interview that one of his parents “was and is not supportive” of marriage rights for same-sex couples. He nevertheless was quick to applaud the referendum’s outcome as proof that his homeland has moved past its anti-LGBT past.

“It’s almost gone from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Beary told the Blade. “I’m still all trying to take this in.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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