More than 3 million voters in Ireland are expected to take part in the country's historic referendum on same-sex marriage on Friday—with opinion polls pointing toward a big win for the 'Yes' side in favor of marriage equality.
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News outlets are reporting that turnout is higher than in previous elections. According to The Independent, "the electorate has turned out especially early in urban areas, with greater Dublin reporting 20% of votes cast before lunch."
Various polls in advance of the referendum showed the 'Yes' side backed by between 53-69 percent of voters. What's more, out of 226 members of Parliament, only 5 have come out publicly against the amendment.
On Wednesday evening, Irish Prime Minister Edna Kenny declared: "There is nothing to fear for voting for love and equality."
The vote is historic not just because Ireland could become the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote, but also because the populace is one of the most Catholic in the world—around 80 percent—and only introduced civil partnership four years ago.
As the New York Times reports:
With a rapidity that has astonished even proponents, Ireland, a country that rescinded its Victorian-era law governing homosexuality — the same legislation England used in 1895 to imprison Oscar Wilde — only after it had been dragged before the European Court of Human Rights, will go to the polls on Friday to decide on gay marriage rights.
Polling stations across Ireland opened at 7am BST and close at 10pm. Vote-counting will take place Saturday and results are expected later in the day.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 19 countries worldwide.