World

'Yes' side confident of victory as ballot count begins in Ireland's gay-marriage vote

  • Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.  Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. Opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign suggest the government-backed amendment should be approved by the required majority of voters when results are announced Saturday.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Partners Adrian, left and Shane, arrive to cast their vote at a polling station in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. Opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign suggest the government-backed amendment should be approved by the required majority of voters when results are announced Saturday. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • Partners Adrian, centre left and Shane, leave a polling station after casting their vote in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.  Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. Opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign suggest the government-backed amendment should be approved by the required majority of voters when results are announced Saturday.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Partners Adrian, centre left and Shane, leave a polling station after casting their vote in Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. Opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign suggest the government-backed amendment should be approved by the required majority of voters when results are announced Saturday. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • Carmelite sisters leave a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015.  Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Carmelite sisters leave a polling station in Malahide, County Dublin, Ireland, Friday, May 22, 2015. Ireland began voting Friday in a referendum on Gay marriage which will require an amendment to the Irish constitution. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

Ireland has begun counting ballots from its referendum to legalize homosexual marriage, and political observers say the first ballot boxes opened point to a victory for gay rights.

Observers from parties and pressure groups observed Saturday's count of votes from Friday's referendum, the first national vote on the issue held worldwide. All initial vote counts in Dublin and rural areas showed majorities voting to amend Ireland's constitution to permit gay marriage.

A government minister, Kevin Humphrey, is forecasting a landslide victory for the "yes" campaign. Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin says it "looks like an emphatic win for the yes side."

A senior campaigner against gay marriage, John Murray of the Catholic think tank Iona Institute, says his side is bracing for likely defeat.