Henry Farrell writes:
An Irish Times exit poll says Ireland has voted to repeal the constitutional provision banning abortion with a crushing majority. The poll says that 68 percent voted yes and 32 percent voted against. People on both sides had expected a yes vote over the past couple of days; few had expected that the margin would be so decisive. Of course, the exit poll may be wrong, but it is hard to imagine that it could be wrong enough to call the final result into question.
DUBLIN — Ireland has become the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory Saturday for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change.
With ballots from 34 out of the 43 voting areas counted, the vote was almost two to one in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. All but one of the districts that were counted voted yes, and it appeared to be statistically impossible for opposition votes to overcome the ayes.
Turnout was large — more than 60 percent of the 3.2 million people eligible to vote cast ballots. Government officials, advocates and even those who had argued against the measure said that the outcome was a resounding endorsement of the constitutional amendment.
Friday’s referendum will be the first time that any country has held a national referendum on gay marriage, which the Irish government decided would make it less vulnerable to challenge in the courts by pro-family groups or the church.
For “Yes” campaigners, victory will be hailed as yet another sign that modern, economically dynamic Ireland is throwing off the social shackles that once held it back. Just as Irish people no longer have to go abroad to find work, they say, nor do they now have to emigrate to embrace their sexuality.
Colm Tóibín: No. When I was working for the Sunday Independent, I think it was 1992, they asked me to do the questions for a telephone poll. The answers were very conservative, until the last question. The last question was ‘If your son or daughter were getting married in a same-sex relationship and there was a party, would you go to it?’ And the vast majority said ‘Yes.’ And I realized then, that’s called soft support. In other words, while they might disapprove, they weren’t angry about it, they wouldn’t ostracize. And once you have that sort of wavering mixture, you can actually watch time working with it. The more and more people were known to be gay, the more and more people who knew them and liked them, and loved them indeed, wanted them to be happy. So slowly, you could almost chart it person by person, family by family, moving in the direction of yes.
And I suppose the other reason is that there is no great opposition to this. It’s not as if the church has come all out with money and a big campaign. I mean, the church is opposed, but in a very quiet, decent way. So it’s been a very successful campaign in that we have been able to make our case to our own nation. And win or lose it, at least we are all out in the open now. The debate is clear. There is nobody invisible. There is nobody afraid. There is nobody feeling that the best place for me would be the closet. And we could win.