Irish voters will be asked to decide on allowing same sex-marriage, and a Yes vote would be a defeat for the Catholic Church in a country it once dominated.
The referendum reflects cross-party and wide public support. Voters will also be asked to approve a constitutional reform to allow younger candidates to stand for the Irish presidency. A Yes vote would lower the minimum age from 35 to 21.
The proposal that will be put to voters will be: "Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex".
Announcing the referendum, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny explains that the issue is about respect and sensitivity, and says the referendum would underline Ireland's reputation as a tolerant and inclusive nation. The Irish Times published an opinion poll in late 2014 that showed more than two thirds of voters would back gay marriage in a referendum.
Date written/update: 2015-02-21