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Ireland Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage 05/23 08:29

   DUBLIN (AP) -- Ireland has voted resoundingly to legalize gay marriage in 
the world's first national vote on the issue, leaders on both sides of the 
Irish referendum declared Saturday even as official ballot counting continued.

   Senior figures from the "no" campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland's 
constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriages, say the only 
question is how large the "yes" side's margin of victory will be from Friday's 
vote.

   "We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our 
constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to 
the rest of the world of liberty and equality. So it's a very proud day to be 
Irish," said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start 
of a government-led effort to amend Ireland's conservative Catholic 
constitution.

   "There is going to be a very substantial majority for a yes vote. I'm not at 
all surprised by that to be honest with you," said Irish Sen. Ronan Mullen, one 
of only a handful of politicians who campaigned for rejection.

   Political analyst Noel Whelan noted that "yes" majorities were being 
reported even in conservative rural districts and suggested the only question 
was how large the "yes" majority would be when all ballots in this 
predominantly Catholic nation of 4.6 million are counted.

   Varadkar, who personally watched the votes being tabulated at the County 
Dublin ballot center, said the Irish capital looks to have voted around 70 
percent in favor of gay marriage, while most districts outside the capital also 
were reporting strong "yes" leads. He said not a single district yet had 
reported a "no" majority. Official results come later Saturday.

   The anti-gay marriage side credited "yes" campaigners with running a 
creative, compelling campaign that harnessed the power of social media to 
mobilize young voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time 
Friday. They also said a "no" victory was always unlikely given that all 
political parties and most politicians backed the legalization of homosexual 
unions, just five years after parliament approved marriage-style civil 
partnerships for gay couples.

   Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin, whose party is traditionally 
closest to the Catholic Church but like all other parties campaigned to 
legalize gay marriage, said it "looks like an emphatic win for the yes side." 
Voters in his native Cork were being recorded by observers as more than 60 
percent yes.

   John Lyons, one of the four openly gay lawmakers in Ireland's 166-member 
parliament, said he was surprised by how many older voters he met on the 
campaign trail who were voting yes. But he paid special credit to the 
mobilization of younger voters, many of whom traveled home from work or studies 
abroad to vote.

   "Most of the young people I canvassed with have never knocked on a door in 
their lives," said Lyons, who represents northwest Dublin in parliament. "This 
says something about modern Ireland. Let's never underestimate the electorate 
or what they think."


(KA)


 
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