The Irish government has been urged to call a referendum as quickly as possible after the constitutional convention voted overwhelmingly in favor of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The advisory body’s recommendation will now be sent to the cabinet which has promised to hold a full debate on the subject in the Irish parliament.

The historic vote by the convention saw 79 per cent of members vote to recommend that the constitution be amended in favor of same sex marriages with just 19 per cent against and the remainder having no opinion.

The Irish Times reports that supporters of the proposal cheered and wept as the result was announced on Sunday.

Gay and lesbian groups have welcomed the vote as a landmark on the road towards equality for gay couples. They have also urged the Government to act swiftly by calling a referendum according to the report.

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore welcomed the result.

Gilmore said: “I have always believed that our laws reflect the past, not the future on this issue.

“It’s not the role of the State to pass judgement on who a person falls in love with, or who they want to spend their life with.”

The constitutional convention is made up of one third politicians and two thirds ordinary citizens.
In the vote, 78 per cent of members voted for a directive amendment that read: “the State shall enact laws providing for same-sex marriage.”

Some 17 per cent opted for a permissive amendment that read: “the State may enact laws providing for same-sex marriage.”

Members also voted in favor of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’ according to the Irish Times.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said: “I welcome the support expressed for the reform and modernization of laws in relation to parentage, guardianship and upbringing of children.

“Essential work has been undertaken on the preparation of a new Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address these issues in relation to children and details of the bill will be published in the coming months.”

More than 1000 submissions on the subject of same-sex marriages were lodged with the convention.

Advocacy groups Marriage Equality, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties issued a joint statement which welcomed the outcome as ‘an historic step’.

GLEN director Brian Sheehan said: “It is a major milestone on the remarkable journey to full constitutional protection for lesbian and gay people and families in Ireland.

“It builds on the extraordinary progress we have achieved over the last 20 years, and clearly demonstrates that Ireland is ready to take the next step to complete that remarkable journey.”

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference was one of three groups which made presentations arguing against same-sex marriage.

A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said: “While the result of the constitutional convention is disappointing, only the people of Ireland can amend the constitution.

“The Catholic church will continue to promote and seek protection for the uniqueness of marriage between a woman and a man, the nature of which best serves children and our society.”