Irish Voters Decide Whether To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage : The Two-Way Polls show the "yes" vote is stronger in the conservative, predominantly Catholic country. But public opinion surveys could be masking a "shy no vote," observers say.
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Irish Voters Decide Whether To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Nuns vote on a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage, at a polling station in County Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. Peter Morrison/AP hide caption

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Peter Morrison/AP

Nuns vote on a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage, at a polling station in County Dublin, Ireland, on Friday.

Peter Morrison/AP

Voters in Ireland are deciding whether the country will amend its constitution to make same-sex marriage legal.

The vote on Friday follows months of debate in the heavily Catholic country. Opinion polls suggest the referendum will pass and Ireland will become the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in a national vote.

But, as NPR's Ari Shapiro points out, "Polls in this part of the world have been totally wrong in the past.

"Just this month, they were way off on the UK elections," Ari says. "And, in this referendum in particular, people wonder if there might be what they call the 'shy no vote' — that would be people who oppose same-sex marriage but might not be as vocal about it as people on the 'yes' side."

According to The Irish Times:

"In the marriage referendum people may vote Yes or No to the proposal to include a new clause about marriage in the Constitution.

"This new clause provides that two people may marry each other regardless of their sex."

The New York Times notes that in a "Roman Catholic country that has long been known for a seemingly conservative streak, the lack of a backlash during the referendum campaign" is remarkable.

The fact that the issue has come so quickly to a national referendum "has astonished even proponents. ... [in a country] that rescinded its Victorian-era law governing homosexuality — the same legislation England used in 1895 to imprison Oscar Wilde — only after it had been dragged before the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," the Times writes.

Polling continues until 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET). Results will be announced Saturday.