DUBLIN, Ireland – Voters are going to the polls today in the Republic of Ireland to determine if the constitution should be amended to allow gay marriage in the country. Ballot boxes opened at 7am this morning, and pundits are expecting a huge turnout that may top 70 percent.
All major political parties in the country are supporting the plan to give homosexual couples the right to formally marry – Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has been particularly prominent in the campaign to secure a constitutional change.
The campaign has focused on the No side’s contention the referendum seeks to redefine the concept of marriage, with the Yes campaign arguing passage of the referendum would simply make marriage available for all adult citizens.
The campaign has been rancorous, with the No side backed by elements which strongly associate with the Catholic Church, and the Yes side gaining vocal support from civil society, trade unions and celebrities from sport and entertainment.
Opinion polls have suggested a Yes victory, but the margin of support has varied widely between polls, with the Irish Times (considered by many the paper of record in the state) predicting a 70 percent / 30 percent split in its most recent weekend edition, whilst the more widely read daily, the Irish Independent, placing the margin much closer to the margin of error.
There is no doubting the nervousness of campaigners on each side of the debate – quiet worry from both sides in advance of a result which could further widen fissures between the people and the previously dominant church.
On Sunday, priests across Ireland were required to read out letters written by their respective bishops, more in hope than in expectation that their encouragements to vote No would be heeded.
If the move is approved and the ensuing legislation is passed, Ireland would become the first country to make the change following a popular vote. Referenda in Croatia and Slovenia both resulted in “No” votes, although in Slovenia, parliament went ahead and approved gay marriage in March.
All political parties in Ireland are state funded, and will therefore be using taxpayers’ money to finance their campaigns.