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Ireland Appears To Approve Same-Sex Marriage

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ireland is making history today. It is poised to become the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a vote of the people. Ballots are still being counted, but both sides now say the Yes campaign has won. NPR's Ari Shapiro has been covering the referendum and he joins us now.

Ari, thanks for being with us.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: The polls closed, I guess, at 10 p.m. last night. The counting started this morning. How did it unfold?

SHAPIRO: Well, even when the polls opened, the Yes campaign had reason to be optimistic. There were huge lines, great turnout. And the Yes campaign had always said apathy would be their worst enemy. On Twitter, the hashtag #hometovote was trending from people coming from around the world to cast their votes in Ireland in-person. And then this morning, results started coming in and it was immediately clear that the referendum had passed by a comfortable margin. Just a couple hours into the counting, one of the leaders of the No campaign, David Quinn, tweeted, congratulations to the Yes side, well done.

SIMON: You spoke to both campaigns today. First, what are you hearing from the Yes side?

SHAPIRO: Well, on the Yes side, I spoke with Tiernan Brady, who runs that campaign, and he even seem surprised at how clear the margin of victory was. He told me, in Dublin, the Yes vote was above 70 percent.

TIERNAN BRADY: Well, it's not just Dublin. It's villages like Bansha in West Tipperary, where 60 percent of people voted yes in a village of 300 people. It's Bundoran, it's Ballyshannon. It's a wonderful message to lesbian and gay people in every corner of the country.

SHAPIRO: And the country's health minister, Leo Varadkar, who's gay, said this vote makes Ireland - and this is a quote - he called it, "a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality."

SIMON: And what are you hearing today from people who campaigned against the referendum?

SHAPIRO: Well, I spoke with Kate Bopp, who told me her side was always a small group of volunteers with huge forces aligned against them.

KATE BOPP: It's kind of hard, it was David and Goliath. Every political party in the state, every state organization, all the NGOs - they all backed the yes vote.

SHAPIRO: Her organization, Mothers and Fathers Matter, put out a statement this morning saying that they are proud to have represented the voices of Irish voters whose views were not reflected by any political party because as she mentioned, every political party in Ireland supported the same-sex marriage referendum.

SIMON: There's one especially adamant institution that opposed the referendum, of course - the Catholic Church. I suspect that the churches will be full tomorrow, but what does this result say about the role of the church in Irish life?

SHAPIRO: It's interesting. You know, we've for decades described Ireland as a conservative Catholic country, and it's true that more than 80 percent of Irish people identify as Catholic. The country has a higher rate of church attendance than almost any other country in Europe, but the Catholic Church in Ireland has had a lot of scandals. And despite the bishops telling people to vote no, some high-profile priests urged their congregations to vote yes or said make up your own mind. And I think that if you view this as a referendum on the power of the Catholic Church in Ireland, that institution was one of the losers in this vote.

SIMON: Ari, any implications globally, as the U.S. Supreme Court might rule next month?

SHAPIRO: You know, almost 20 countries around the world have legalized same-sex marriage, but in all of them it was either legislation or a court ruling. This is the first country in the world to take the step by popular vote, and it's not in what you would call an overwhelmingly liberal country, so I think it's just one more piece of evidence of how fast attitudes towards LGBT people are changing around the world.

SIMON: NPR's Ari Shapiro, thanks so much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.