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It's a great day for the Irish, as Ireland's first legal same-sex marriage took place this morning in Clonmel, County Tipperary.
Cormac Gollogly (pictured, right) and Richard Dowling (left) married at 8:40 a.m., the Irish Times reports (watch video in the tweet below). Mary-Claire Heffernan, the senior registrar for south Tipperary County, officiated and confirmed they were the first; other same-sex couples throughout the nation plan to marry today.
The men, both 35, have been together 12 years and were joined in a civil partnership in September. They had decided to go ahead with the civil partnership ceremony, which they had planned several months earlier, even after voters approved marriage equality in May, because they were worried about legal challenges to the marriage equality measure.
"It's 'Murphy's Law' -- had we not booked the civil partnership ceremony, then I bet the marriage referendum would not have passed," Gollogly told the Times.
While they were happy to have their civil partnership, something available to Irish same-sex couples since 2011, there's nothing like marriage, they said. "We are really delighted to be able to do it," Dowling said. "Having a full marriage was important to us, so now we can relax and get old together." Gollogly is a lawyer and Dowling works for the banking firm AIB.
After Irish voters OK'd marriage equality, making Ireland the first country in the world to approve equal marriage rights by popular vote (a constitutional provision requires a nationwide vote on marriage), the nation's Parliament had to pass legislation to make it official, and that happened in October, with the law going into effect Monday. Couples who wish to marry must give three months' notice, but that period is reduced to five days for those already in civil partnerships, and local registrars can reduce that to one day if they wish. Therefore today was the first day same-sex couples were able to marry in Ireland.
In another bit of good news for Ireland's LGBT residents, the nation's equality minister said he would back a bill to remove religious exemptions from the Employment Equality Act. As it stands, the law allows religiously affiliated employers to ignore the bans on anti-LGBT discrimination "in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution."
"As marriage equality becomes a reality today, on Wednesday we amend [the law] to end LGBT and other discrimination in schools and hospitals," Aodhan O Riordain, the minister of state for equality, told Irish talk radio network Newstalk.
"Marriage equality was a wonderful achievement, and Ireland should be very proud of being the first country to bring in marriage equality by popular vote," he said. "But if you're 13 years of age, and you're just coming out and you're nervous, marriage equality might feel a very long way away. We still have issues of homophobia in Ireland -- I don't think we're unique in that respect -- but the things we're doing this week will go a long way to addressing that."