Irish voters backed legalizing gay marriage by a landslide, according to electoral figures announced Saturday — a stunning result that illustrates the rapid social change taking place in this traditionally Catholic nation.
Figures from Friday’s referendum announced at Dublin Castle showed that 62.1 percent of Irish voters said “yes.” Outside, watching the results announcement live in the castle’s cobblestoned courtyard, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried.
The unexpectedly strong percentage of approval surprised both sides. Analysts and campaigners credited the “yes” side with adeptly using social media to mobilize first-time young voters and for a series of searing personal stories from Irish gay people to convince voters to back equal marriage rights.
Ireland is the first country to approve gay marriage in a popular national vote. Nineteen other countries have legalized the practice.To anyone who grew up in the fifties and sixties, when the idea even of legal divorce was unthinkable for Ireland, so strong was the hold of the Catholic church, this is absolutely stunning. Divorce was not, in fact legalized there until the nineties.
When things start changing, it seems that the changes often come amazingly fast.