The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has welcomed the publication of a new study revealing the number of gays and lesbians who have chosen to marry in countries that uphold marriage equality.

Marriage equality is enshrined in the laws of the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and the US state of Massachusetts, where the constitution forbids the creation of second-class citizens.

In the first 20 months after equality was legalised in Massachusetts, 14,682 residents wed a partner of the same sex. Ireland’s population is one-third smaller than Massachusetts,’ suggesting that the number of Irish citizens who would marry in Ireland if they weren’t banned from doing so could exceed 10,000.

USI gay and lesbian spokesperson Steven Conlon said: “It is possible that over 10,000 gay Irish citizens would take advantage of a change in the law to get married by 2008.

The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy found that in Massachusetts, which is very similar to Ireland but with a larger population (6 million), almost 15,000 residents married a partner of the same sex during the first 20 months of marriage equality.

“The right to marry the person one chooses is a civil right, but a civil right that is being denied to literally thousands or Irish citizens. By refusing to legislate for marriage equality, the Irish Government is creating a category of second-class citizens.

“So long as the Government of Ireland refuses to join the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Massachusetts in legislating for marriage equality, the Union of Students in Ireland will oppose and condemn it for denying civil rights to so many.

“History will judge the Irish people on how well we lead by moral example, so we must not be afraid to stand alongside the countries standing up for marriage equality.”