Today, Irish voters have overwhelmingly backed an amendment to their constitution to legalize gay marriage, leaders from both sides of the referendum say. The expected win makes Ireland, a country with a conservative Catholic constitution, the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

"We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate," said Leo Varadkar, Ireland's openly gay Minister of Health, via the Associated Press. "That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish."

“People from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, or friends and co-workers and colleagues, we’re a majority,” said Varadkar.

The votes are still being tallied, but Varadkar, who watched the votes being tabulated at the County Dublin ballot center, said that around 70% of voters in Dublin cast a ballot in favor of the amendment. According to Varadkar, so far, no district has reported that a majority of voters voted "no." The official results will be announced later today.

[via the Associated Press] 

UPDATE, May 23, 1:35 p.m. ET: The New York Times has reported that 34 of 43 districts have counted their ballots, and the vote is almost two to one in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Only one district had a majority vote against the referendum, and the Times says it appears "statistically impossible" for the remaining ballots to overthrow the votes in favor.

The Times also reports that the voter turnout was huge: over 60% of those eligible to vote showed up to cast ballots. It's a pretty incredible milestone for a predominantly Catholic country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993.