DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland celebrated its first gay marriages on Tuesday, six months after voters overwhelmingly chose to legalize the practice in the traditionally conservative Catholic nation.
Dozens of couples nationwide converted their existing civil partnerships into full marriages in brief ceremonies in often less-than-romantic settings, such as antiseptic hospital offices where births and deaths also are recorded.
Gay marriage became officially legal Monday but the legislation required a minimum 24-hour notice to upgrade civil partnerships, while those seeking a legal union for the first time must wait a further three months to schedule their services.
Ireland's first couple to sign on the dotted line was lawyer Cormac Gollogly and bank official Richard Dowling, both 35.
The senior registrar for South Tipperary, Mary Claire Heffernan, helped them to be wed before 9 a.m. in a spartan waiting room inside a registration center for births, deaths and marriages inside the hospital in Clonmel, southwest Ireland. She also oversaw their much grander civil partnership in September, when the couple donned top hats and tails and spent two weeks honeymooning in the Maldives.
This time, Gollogly and Dowling sat in office chairs as they took turns presenting rings and exchanging vows "to love and comfort him in sickness and in health," followed by a kiss and embrace. They used a stainless steel hospital trolley as a desk to sign their wedding certificate.
"It was great to get it done so early ... to be the first in Ireland," said Gollogly, who has been with Dowling for 12 years.
"There's something very surreal about it, because obviously we've done the civil partnership already," Dowling said. "But it really is so nice to have the full marriage, and I'm every bit as emotional."
More than 62 percent of voters approved gay marriage in a May referendum, making Ireland the first nation worldwide to approve the measure by popular vote. Twenty-two other countries have legalized gay marriage through legislation or court judgments.