It's official: Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage by 62.1% to 37.9%, the Guardian reports. The total vote, with a turnout of 60.5%, was 1,201,607 to 734,300. Gay couples hugged and kissed each other amid scenes of jubilation at counting centers and at the official results center in Dublin Castle, whose cobblestoned central square was opened so thousands of revelers could sit in the sunshine and watch the results live on big-screen televisions. "We're the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate," says Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland's conservative Catholic constitution.
"That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality," he adds. Political analysts who have covered Irish referendums for decades agreed that today's emerging landslide marked a stunning generational shift from the 1980s, when voters still firmly backed Catholic Church teachings and voted against abortion and divorce. "We're in a new country," says a political analyst who calls the result "a tidal wave" that produced pro-gay marriage majorities in even the most traditionally conservative rural corners of Ireland. Those seeking a "no" outcome described their defeat as almost inevitable, given that all of Ireland's political parties and most politicians backed the legalization of homosexual unions. Click for the full AP story on Ireland's vote.