QUEER VOICES

Ireland Gay Marriage Vote Sees High Yes Turnout

05/22/2015 06:47 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016
PAUL FAITH via Getty Images

* Ireland would be first to adopt gay marriage by referendum

* Polls indicate 'Yes' campaign win, turnout strong

* http://link.reuters.com/qax74w

* For Take A Look, please click on: (Updates with turnout, No side say signs positive for Yes)

By Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries

DUBLIN, May 22 (Reuters) - Irish voters turned out in droves to cast ballots in a gay marriage referendum on Friday, with the high turnout likely to favor the Yes side seeking equality just two decades after the country decriminalized homosexuality.

With the once mighty Catholic Church's influence ravaged by child abuse scandals, opinion polls indicated the proposal would pass by as much as two-to-one, making Ireland the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote.

Irish national broadcaster RTE said it appeared to have been one of the highest ever turnouts for a referendum in the country, with turnout likely to reach 60 percent in Dublin. Only 39 percent voted nationally in an unsuccessful bid to abolish the upper house of parliament in 2013.

"It's looking as if there's a strong vote in urban areas, which would be more beneficial to the Yes side," said Mattie McGrath, one of just two of Ireland's 166 members of parliament who campaigned for a No vote.

"It's all to play for tomorrow, but the Yes vote might shade it," he said. There was no national exit poll and the first indications of the result were expected mid-morning on Saturday.

Yes campaigners also said the high turnout was a good sign.

"[I'm] beginning to dare to hope," said Rory O'Neill, also known by his drag queen stage name Panti Bliss, who has been one of the faces of the Yes campaign.

The result may depend on whether younger voters, tens of thousands of whom registered as the campaign gathered momentum, turn out to cast their ballots.

The result, which will likely be declared late Saturday afternoon, may also reveal an urban/rural split. When voters legalized divorce by a razor thin majority in 1995, only five of the 30 constituencies outside Dublin backed the proposal.

International interest made the hashtag #VoteYes the top trending issue on Twitter and thousands of Irish expatriates made the trip home from Britain and as far afield as New York and Sydney to vote, groups encouraging the 'Yes' vote, using the hashtag #hometovote, said.

"I've been genuinely overwhelmed by the scale and the scope of the hometovote movement," said Joey Kavanagh of the Get The Boat 2 Vote group, as he and about 50 others made the eight-hour journey by train and ferry from London to Dublin.

"It's a very festive, celebratory atmosphere. At the moment we're hanging up posters in the lounge and stringing up balloons. People are just very eager to get back."

Gay marriage is backed by all political parties, championed by big employers and endorsed by celebrities, all hoping it will mark a transformation in a country that was long regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe.

The Catholic Church, whose doctrine teaches that homosexuality is a sin, has mainly limited its 'No' campaigning to sermons to its remaining flock, a marked contrast with active public opposition to similar moves in France and elsewhere.

Instead, lay groups have led the opposition, raising concerns over parenthood and surrogacy rights for gay couples. Many believe the recognition of the legal rights of same-sex couples in 2009 is sufficient.

"I don't think it's necessary because it's covered in the civil partnership arrangements," said Sean, a retiree voting in the leafy Dublin suburb of Blackrock. Only a couple of his friends were voting 'Yes', he said.

"I'm not convinced, I think it's wrong and I don't agree with it." (Editing by Janet Lawrence, Bernard Orr)

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  • Peter Morrison/AP
    Carmelite sisters leave a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    Women cast their vote in a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny arrives to meet with members of the Yes Equality campaign during a photo call in Dublin, Ireland, Thursday May 21, 2015. The Irish Prime Minister is appealing to Ireland's voters to support the legalization of gay marriage in a referendum that pits the power of the Catholic Church against his government. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    YES posters cover a shop's windows in the center of Dublin, Ireland, Thursday May 21, 2015. People from across the Republic of Ireland will vote Friday in a referendum on the legalization of gay marriage, a vote that pits the power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded Irish government of Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    Members of the Yes Equality campaign gather in the center of Dublin, Ireland, Thursday May 21, 2015. People from across the Republic of Ireland will vote Friday in a referendum on the legalization of gay marriage, a vote that pits the power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded Irish government of Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    In this Tuesday, May 19, 2015 photo, yes campaign posters are seen in Dublin, Ireland, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Barely a generation ago, Ireland listed homosexual acts as a crime and made gays lead secret lives or emigrate to more liberal lands. But on Friday, May 22, 2015, in the worlds first national referendum on the matter, the Irish could vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The contest has pit the waning power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Peter Morrison/AP
    In this Tuesday, May 19, 2015 photo, no campaign posters are seen in the village of Knock, Ireland, Barely a generation ago, Ireland listed homosexual acts as a crime and made gays lead secret lives or emigrate to more liberal lands. But on Friday, May 22, 2015, in the worlds first national referendum on the matter, the Irish could vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The contest has pit the waning power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • AP
    In this Tuesday, May 19, 2015 photo, a mural depicting a lesbian couple, a 46 feet high print made of biodegradable paper with a potato-based adhesive made by artist Joe Caslin, is seen on the wall of the 15th century Caher Castle, Caherkinmonwee, Galway, Ireland. Barely a generation ago, Ireland listed homosexual acts as a crime and made gays lead secret lives or emigrate to more liberal lands. But on Friday, May 22, 2015, in the worlds first national referendum on the matter, the Irish could vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The contest has pit the waning power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
  • Shawn Pogatchnik/AP
    In this Thursday, April 23, 2015 photo, a gay rights mural decorates the side of a building in central Dublin, Ireland. Barely a generation ago, Ireland listed homosexual acts as a crime and made gays lead secret lives or emigrate to more liberal lands. But on Friday, May 22, 2015, in the worlds first national referendum on the matter, the Irish could vote to legalize same-sex marriage. The contest has pit the waning power of the Catholic Church against the secular-minded government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny. (AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik)
  • Niall Carson/PA Wire
    Members of the public beside a mural in Dublin's Temple Bar area by street artist SUMS supporting a yes vote in the forthcoming Gay Marriage referendum in Ireland.
  • PAUL FAITH via Getty Images
    Mary Cassidy (R) drops her ballot paper in the ballot box at a polling station in Drumcondra, north Dublin on May 22, 2015. Ireland took to the polls today to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
  • PAUL FAITH via Getty Images
    A mural in favour of same-sex marriage is pictured on a wall in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
  • PAUL FAITH via Getty Images
    Pedestrians walk past a banner in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
  • PAUL FAITH via Getty Images
    A man walks past a mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
  • PAUL FAITH via Getty Images
    Pedestrians walk past a mural in favour of same-sex marriages in Dublin on May 21, 2015. Ireland goes to the polls tomorrow to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be legal, in a referendum that has exposed sharp divisions between communities in this traditionally Catholic nation.
  • Charles McQuillan via Getty Images
    A man walks past a gay bar promoting the Yes campaign in favour of same-sex marriage on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Voters in the Republic of Ireland are taking part in a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage on Friday. The referendum is being held 22 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality with more than 3.2m people being asked whether they want to amend the country's constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST with voting continuing until 22:00 BST and counting due to start on Saturday morning.
  • Charles McQuillan via Getty Images
    An unidentified man takes a selfie against the backdrop of a catholic church and directions to a polling station on May 22, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. Voters in the Republic of Ireland are taking part in a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage on Friday. The referendum is being held 22 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality with more than 3.2m people being asked whether they want to amend the country's constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST with voting continuing until 22:00 BST and counting due to start on Saturday morning. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Partners Adrian, centre left and Shane, leave a polling station after casting their vote in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. Opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign suggest the government-backed amendment should be approved by the required majority of voters when results are announced Saturday. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
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