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Ireland makes history by voting for marriage equality

Supporters outside Dublin Castle following the marriage referendum on 23 May
Supporters react outside Dublin Castle following the result of the same-sex marriage referendum on 23 May 2015 © AFP/Getty Images

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Ireland, after legislation passed by popular vote in May of this year came into effect today.

The Marriage Equality Bill today passed all stages in the Oireachtas and will now go President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law.

The first civil marriages of same sex couples could take place before the end of this year.

May referendum votes for equal marriage

On 23 May, Ireland made history when it became the first country in the world to introduce full marriage equality following a popular vote. Now all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are entitled to civil marriage rights.

A universal ballot of the Irish electorate on 23 May saw an overwhelming vote in favour of extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

62.1% of people voted for - and 37.9% voted against - an amendment to the Irish Constitution asserting that 'Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.'

Following its referendum, Ireland became the 19th country in the world to approve the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, and the first to do so by a popular ballot.

The campaign for equality

Amnesty International Ireland campaigned for a Yes vote in the referendum. Amnesty International as a global organisation has, since 2007, called on all states to end discrimination in civil marriage laws based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Same-sex couples and their families will be afforded the same celebration, the same support, the same significance as those of the heterosexual counterparts. Ireland will take yet another step towards becoming a republic of equals. The fact that it has done so by the clearly expressed will of its people, makes it all the more powerful, and all the  more sweet, a moment."

Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty Ireland Executive Director

The May referendum was held just over two years after the Constitutional Convention, a citizen’s assembly established by the Irish Government, recommended that the Irish Constitution be amended to allow for civil marriage for same-sex couples.

The referendum victory was the result of many years of campaigning by civil society groups including Amnesty alongside the Marriage Equality, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network).

“Amnesty International Ireland is proud to have been part of this campaign, and we are delighted with the result. We are especially heartened at the tone and focus of the campaign. It has been, for the most part, affirming, positive and even joyous. This was especially evident in the energy and commitment shown by the many thousands of people who came together under the Yes Equality banner in cities, towns and villages right across Ireland to canvass door to door and street by street. They made this possible, and this is their victory.”

Colm O’Gorman