New York is deeply Irish, with 12.9 percent of its more than 8 million residents claiming Irish heritage today. At one time, the city was home to more Irish residents than Dublin, and Irish-Americans have held serious sway in the city since the time of Tammany Hall. So plenty of locals were paying attention on Saturday when Ireland, where the Catholic Church still controls many facets of civic life, including more than 90 percent of schools, voted overwhelmingly to legalize gay marriage. Gay-rights activists and New York politicians hailed the development as a huge step forward for the country.

WCBS 880 reports:

Emmaia Gelman with the group Irish Queers told WCBS 880's Jim Smith the local community in New York is over the moon.

"It's just such a powerful statement from the Irish public saying that homophobia is not the norm and is not to be accepted," she said.

Another advocate tied the victory to the battle at home over gay inclusion in the annual NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan, which has long blocked gay participation, and this year allowed only a single group of gay NBC employees.

"Exclusion is not Irish. Inequality is not Irish," Brendan Fay, founder of the St. Pat's For All parade in Queens, told WCBS.

Ireland is the 20th country to legalize gay marriage, and the first to do so by a popular vote. New York only made the change in 2011, and the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to uphold state bans on gay marriage. Mayor de Blasio was among the New York officials who praised the Irish people's act of self-determination.

"The Irish people have directly declared that their LGBT brothers and sisters deserve the same rights protected for others," Hizzoner said in a statement. "As a city filled with strong Irish communities, we applaud this significant victory." De Blasio has boycotted the Manhattan St. Patrick's Day Parade for the last two years because of its anti-gay stance.

Gov. Cuomo and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also issued statements praising the Irish referendum. "The right to marry is a human right," Mark-Viverito said. "The United States Supreme Court should take note of what happened in Ireland today."

The Irish vote was the culmination of decades of organizing following the murder of a gay man and what the New York Times describes as Ireland's version of the Stonewall Riots:

In 1982, Declan Flynn, a 31-year-old homosexual, was kicked and beaten to death with sticks by a gang of four youths in Fairview Park in Dublin’s north inner city.

His assailants admitted they had attacked him because they had been “queer bashing.” The leniency of their sentences — between one and five years, all suspended — was the catalyst for the first widespread demonstration for gay rights.

[...] Afterward, about 900 people marched to the park to protest the crime and the sentence.

Homosexuality itself was illegal in Ireland until 1993, and abortion remains banned there except when a pregnant woman's life is at risk. Anti-sodomy laws were on the books in the U.S. until the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas struck them down. The vocally homophobic Catholic League of New York has been silent in the wake of the referendum, as have organizers of the Manhattan parade.