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Ireland's gay marriage vote: 5 things to know

DUBLIN - Ireland is about to hold a referendum on whether same-sex marriage should be legal — and the traditionally Catholic stronghold could buck the Church.

Irish voters are being asked whether to approve a constitutional change that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples. Here are five things you need to know:

1. It's a public vote. Eighteen countries, mostly in Europe, permit gay marriages but all approved same-sex marriage through legislation or the courts. Ireland would be the first to do so in a national referendum.

2. Ireland already has same-sex partnerships. Civil unions were introduced in 2010 and this gave some of the same legal and financial protections to gay couples as those enjoyed in opposite-sex marriages.

Experts say there are about two dozen legal gaps remaining between partnerships and marriage, mainly centered around issues of child adoption and guardianship. Supporters of same-sex marriage say the issue is less about these legal gaps than about striving to secure equal rights.

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