Ireland Could Legalize Gay Marriage By Popular Vote & The Historic Move Reveals Just How Far The Country Has Come

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Since decriminalizing homosexuality in 1993, Ireland has made big strides in the gay rights movement. And, the country might be about to make its biggest move yet. Right now, the Republic of Ireland is poised to become the Ireland is poised to approve same-sex marriage in a popular vote, becoming the first country ever — as in, in the whole world — to do so via popular vote. The final verdict won’t arrive until Friday, but, right now, it looks like the referendum stands a pretty good chance of passing.

The decision in Ireland is happening in the exact opposite way that it is currently happening in the United States. While the Supreme Court will make the final call on the issue of same-sex marriage in America, the final verdict has been put into the hands of the voters in Ireland. By placing the decision into the hands of its 4.5 million people, Ireland has made a topic that was once taboo into a subject of a nationwide discussion.

As of right now, support for gay marriage is trumping opposition. According to a compilation of polls from Reuters, the Irish Times shows a 2-to-1 margin in favor of gay marriage, and two other polls found that 60 percent were in support of the referendum. All of the country’s major political parties, government, unions, big businesses and organizations have spoken out in favor of the same-sex marriage referendum passing, The Washington Post reports.

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This sweeping support for same-sex marriage comes as a surprise to many, considering the fact that the issue was taboo just decades ago and because 85 percent of the Irish population identifies as Catholic. Although the gay rights movement has long been sweeping Europe, Ireland has long been one of Western Europe's most conservative countries. For example, condoms were not available except by prescription until 1985 and abortions are still prohibited there, according to The Washington Post.

The church has spoken out against the referendum and maintains its staunch opposition to same-sex marriage. However, a large percentage of Irish Catholics seem not to care. This attitude underscores a longer attitude shift in Ireland toward the Catholic Church and its teachings. According to Reuters, support for the Catholic Church largely collapsed due to the Church’s child abuse scandals that undermined its authority.

Former government minister Pat Carey — who came out as gay in February at age 67 — told The Washington Post that the support for the referendum shows just how drastically Ireland has changed.

If a country as historically conservative as Ireland could so drastically change its stance on same-sex marriage in such a short period of time, that certainly raises hopes for other countries to do the same — the United States included. Friday’s vote in Ireland could really be a monumental moment for same-sex marriage, and for the world.

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