History is being made in Ireland today, as voters cast their ballots in a referendum that could legalise same-sex marriage. More than 3 million people are eligible to vote and a result is expected on Saturday.
Gay marriage is already legal in around 20 countries, with the Netherlands becoming the first in 2001. Others to have followed suit include France, Canada, Argentina, Spain and New Zealand, while same-sex marriage is legal in most states in the USA.
If the Irish people vote ‘Yes’, however, Ireland will become the first country in the world to have legalised gay marriage by a popular, national vote.
It’s expected to be a ‘Yes’. We won’t know for sure until tomorrow, but most polls suggest that support for same-sex marriage is around the 70% mark. (Pretty swift progress considering homosexuality was only decriminalised in Ireland as recently as 1993.)
Support for a ‘Yes’ vote has been swelled by an all-conquering juggernaut of a campaign that has seen all four main Irish political parties come out in favour of gay marriage. Celebrities have also urged voters to tick the Tá box – Bono, Colin Farrell, Stephen Fry, Hozier, Brian O’Driscoll, Ed Sheeran, oh, just about everyone. (Tá is the Irish word for 'Yes'.)
Celeb endorsements are most likely to catch the eye of the younger generation, of course, and it's this demographic that’s likely to make the big difference today. Already, reports suggest a huge (temporary) influx of young emigrant Irish – twenty somethings forced out by the economic crisis – returning to these shores to have their say. Good on them.
All in all, it’s looking like a ‘Yes’. A yes to what? A yes to freedom. A yes to equality. A yes to compassion, tolerance, humanity, equal opportunities, for all citizens. A yes to love, pure and simple.
Let’s do it.
UPDATE: Never in doubt! 62% yes, 38% no, a landslide victory in the end. History made, we move on.