The Irish government has announced it will hold a public vote in 2015 on whether gay couples should be allowed to marry.
The Republic of Ireland currently allows same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, but not to marry.
Grainne Healy, chairman of Irish group Marriage Equality, cheered the announcement.
“This referendum is unlike most other referenda, it’s not concerned with politics or economics, it’s about Ireland valuing its citizens equally," Healy said. "Introducing marriage equality to Ireland would strengthen our reputation as champions for human rights and equality.”
A government spokesperson said the Irish government would be “actively supporting” allowing gay couples to marry.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told reporters that he, like many other Irish people, supports gay marriage.
“I have met nobody under 40 who is not in favor,” he added.
Leading the opposition will be the Catholic Church in Ireland, which according to Denis Nulty, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, plans to campaign against gay marriage.
“The Church regards the family based on marriage between a woman and a man as the single most important institution in any society,” he said. "To change the nature of marriage would be to undermine it as the fundamental building block of our society.”
More from GlobalPost: Gay marriage becomes legal in England after queen's assent