Voters in the Republic of Ireland are taking part in a referendum on legalising same-sex marriage on Friday.

More than 3.2m people are being asked whether they want to amend the country’s constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Polling stations opened at 07:00 BST with voting continuing until 22:00 BST and counting due to start on Saturday morning.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 19 countries worldwide.

Votes have already been cast in some islands as well as hospitals, hospices and nursing homes. Only Irish citizens who are registered and living in the state can take part.

They will be asked whether they agree with the statement: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”.

The referendum is being held 22 years after Ireland decriminalised homosexuality.

In 2010, the government enacted civil partnership legislation, which provided legal recognition for gay couples.

But there are some important differences between civil partnership and marriage, the critical one being that marriage is protected in the constitution while civil partnership is not.

A constitutional convention established by the Irish government in 2013 considered the specifics of a proposal on extending marriage rights, as well as discussing other changes to the constitution.

It voted in favour of holding a referendum on same-sex marriage and the date was announced by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny earlier this year.

A separate referendum, on whether the eligibility age of presidential candidates should be lowered from 35 to 21, is being held at the same time, along with a parliamentary by-election in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.