Gay marriage is now legal in the Republic of Ireland. The law that went into effect today (Nov. 16) comes after the nation overwhelmingly voted yes on a referendum, becoming the first country to move to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.
The landmark move is notable in the heavily Catholic country; the Vatican criticized the gay marriage vote as a “defeat for humanity.” While the Catholic Church has been more welcoming of same-sex couples in recent years, its stance on gay marriage hasn’t changed—although Pope Francis’ public comments on the subject certainly have.
The non-compliance with Vatican doctrine speaks to a broader shift in Irish society: In 2012, 47% of Irish citizens described themselves as religious, down from 69% just seven years before that.
The new legislation impacts not just gay couples who are looking to get married, but also those who have already applied to register a civil partnership; those couples can now decide to convert their civil partnership application into a marriage application for the same date, the BBC reports.
Same-sex couples already in civil partnerships can choose to remain in one or get married, but the state will not accept new applications for civil partnerships.