DUBLIN, Ireland, May 23 (UPI) -- Ireland's government ministers said voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to allow civil same-sex marriage, making it the first nation in the world to legalize gay unions through a popular vote.
Campaigners on both sides of the debate said a victory was imminent, even though the official results won't be back until later Saturday. Those who opposed the amendment to the country's constitution to allow same-sex marriage conceded defeat in the heavily Roman Catholic country.
David Quinn, the director of the conservative Iona Institute that was leading the charge against the referendum, tweeted a congratulatory message. He later said despite the victory, "we will continue to affirm the importance of the biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood."
"We believe we fought a good campaign. It was always going to be an uphill battle. However, we helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote No. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view," he said.
As the final votes were being counted, leaders from around the country were cheering the victory, some 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalized in the country. Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald heralded it as a "momentous day."
"I'm calling it," Minister for Equality Aodhan O Riordain said on Twitter. "It's a yes. And a landslide across Dublin.
If confirmed, the victory will mark a distinct shift in the widely conservative country and the latest victory for gay rights throughout Europe. In 2013, France passed same-sex marriage legislation. The next year, the first same-sex marriage took place in the United Kingdom. At the same time, however, Croatia tightened its ban on same-sex marriage in 2013.
Congratulations to the Yes side. Well done. #MarRef— David Quinn (@DavQuinn) May 23, 2015