The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has voted to campaign in favour of equal rights for gay couples to marry and adopt in its latest Congress.

The Union adopted the motion “to vehemently campaign on the full equalisation of rights regardless of sexual orientation, for full and equal marriage rights, full and equal adoption rights and for this union to recognise lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT members as full and equal members of society in recognition of the rights laid out above.”

The USI is the sole national representative body for students in Ireland, representing over 250,000 students in over 40 colleges across the country.

The motion was proposed by University College Dublin’s Students’ Union, and was passed unanimously by the USI Congress.

It said the “failure to recognise equality in our legislation undeniably leads to a failure to see people as equals in our classrooms, our lecture theatres, our campuses and our workplaces” and to the “denial of rights to children raised by same sex parents and to gross negligence on the part of the state by indirectly condoning bullying and torment for people who identify as LGBT”.

Moninne Griffith, Director of Marriage Equality, an Irish campaign group working for the right of gay couples to marry, said: “We are delighted to have the strong support of the USI behind the campaign for equality for same sex couples, our families and our children.

“We have a growing political consensus in favour of removing the marriage ban, with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael having recently passed motions on the issue of marriage equality at their Ard Fheiseanna. We also have a strong majority – 73% – of people who believe that denying someone the right to marry the person they love is wrong. The upcoming Constitutional Convention will make recommendations to Government in relation to introduction of marriage equality for same sex couples in Ireland, so these next few months are critical for our campaign. We are delighted that USI will be campaigning with us.”

“We are also delighted that USI have pledged their support for adoption by same sex couples,” continued Ms Griffith. “As recently as yesterday, the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald acknowledged that Civil Partnership does not protect children of same sex couples and promised to look at ways to address the issues faced by children in same sex families. We met the Minister at the recent Fine Gael Ard Fheis, and we are delighted that she is open to positive reforms to protect our children.

“Initial census figures released in late March found over 4000 cohabiting same sex couples, including 230 same sex couples with children, though these figures are thought to be hugely under-representative. None of these children are protected under the current system, and this could be easily remedied by removing the marriage ban for same sex couples.”

USI Equality Officer Laura Harmon said: “This is something the Union of Students in Ireland will be pushing next year. Students feel very strongly about this issue and there is a clear hunger from both LGBT and non-LGBT students to get involved in campaigning for LGBT rights. It is fantastic that there is such a clear mandate from the membership for USI to campaign for marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples.”

With over 160 differences between civil partnership and civil marriage in Ireland, Marriage Equality says the inequalities are having a real impact on same sex couples, our families and our children.

Marriage Equality said it looked forward to engaging with the Constitutional Convention, which will consult on marriage equality among other constitutional reform issues. It also urged supporters to contact their elected representatives to ensure that the voices of those affected by the marriage ban – gay and lesbian couples, their families and children – are heard during the process.