Ireland becomes first country to approve gay marriage in referendum

A same-sex marriage supporter reacts at Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland May 23, 2015. (Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)
With all the votes now counted, Ireland has become the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriages by popular vote.

The results from all the constituencies have now been declared. Ireland has voted for same-sex marriages with 62.1 percent Yesto 37.9 percent No, or 1,201,607 votes to 734,300. The total turnout was 60.5 percent.

Children wave rainbow flags as they stand with their same-sex marriage supporting parents at Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland May 23, 2015. (Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)

Local media proclaim that the Friday referendum has granted ultimate support to gay marriages, a culmination of a four-decade struggle for gay rights.

Same-sex marriage supporters pose for a photograph at Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland May 23, 2015. (Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)

However unexpected a gay marriage referendum might appear in the traditionally Catholic country, officials acknowledged a ‘Yes’ vote looked in the bag even before the count began. Saturday morning, several ministers already predicted that the vote would pass.

READ MORE: #hometovote: Irish expats travel back for gay marriage referendum

“I think it's won,” Equality Minister Aodhan O'Riordain told Reuters. “This has really touched a nerve in Ireland today and I'm so proud to be Irish.”

John Murray from Catholic think tank the Iona Institute, believed to be one of the main opponents of the controversial legislative intention, has also cautiously noted that the bill might pass.

“Everyone seems to be predicting a 'yes' ... and that seems to be the case at the moment. It's disappointing,” Murray said, just minutes after the first ballot boxes were opened.

All Ireland's main political parties, including the conservatives, have showed support to amending the constitutional definition of marriage.

"Whatever the final outcome, the issue of equality for gay and lesbian citizens is a live political issue," Gerry Adams, president of the nationalist Sinn Fein opposition party, told The Daily Telegraph.

The country’s Catholic Church hierarchy campaigned for a "No" vote, insisting marriage can only involve a man and woman. Many older and rural voters agreed with the clergy. However, on Saturday, David Quinn, of the Catholic think tank the Iona Institute, tweeted: "Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done."

Political analyst Noel Whelan told AP that "Yes" majorities were reported even in conservative rural districts of Ireland, and the question is now is how big the victory will be.