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Ireland Gay Marriage Bill Signed into Law

FILE- Rory O'Neill, known by the Drag persona Panti, celebrates the referendum result with "yes" supporters at Dublin Castle, Ireland, May 23, 2015.

A gay marriage has been signed into law in Ireland, six months after a historic referendum made the traditionally Catholic nation the first country in the world to approve it by popular vote.

The bill clears the way for same-sex weddings to begin within a month.

Irish President Michael Higgins is visiting the United States, so senior officials signed the bill in his place.

The president's office was the final stop for the measure after a May referendum in which 62 percent of voters approved a change in the constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The vote came only two decades after Ireland decriminalizes homosexuality.

The overwhelming "yes" vote was due in part to thousands of young Irish voters who returned home from abroad to cast their votes. More than 60 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot, the highest turnout in a popular vote in Ireland in over two decades.

In Europe, gay marriage is legal in more than a dozen countries. It has also been legalized in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay.