With a group of senior Liberals calling for a conscience vote in the party on same-sex marriage, an online petition campaign is targeting Opposition leader Tony Abbott with a demand for a free vote for MPs.

“While Mr Abbott strongly opposes marriage equality, there are many other Liberal MPs who strongly support marriage equality in the Liberal Party,” the petition on the Change.org website reads.

“I want these other MPs to have the ability to vote for marriage equality when a bill is tabled in Parliament.

“Marriage is an Act of Parliament and the majority of marriages (70%+) are now civil ceremonies and not conducted in a church. In our secular society, the religious argument to justify anti-gay marriage sentiment just doesn’t cut it.

“All love is equal and the government cannot continue to deny gay citizens the right to marry the person they love. There are no negatives to changing the Act — let’s live and let live.

“Mr Abbott, it’s time you supported marriage equality. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, then we want a conscience vote in the Liberal Party.”

The petition was started by Nathan Thomas, who’s Vietnam War veteran father challenged Abbott on the issue on ABC’s Q&A in August of last year.

Thomas lives in Mr Abbott’s electorate of Warringah and said he had been inspired by his father to become more involved in the fight for marriage equality.

“I started this petition because I want the choice to marry the person I love one day,” Thomas said, “I feel the petition is a great way to get the word out there and let the average Australian send a message to Tony Abbott letting him know they want him to support a conscience vote.”

“My mum and dad had a great marriage that lasted almost 40 years until my mum passed away. My dad has been lucky enough to fall in love again and he is getting married for the second time next year. My sister and many of my friends have also made the choice to marry.

“Something that most Australians take for granted is illegal for someone like me.”

Nathan and his father met the Opposition Leader last year, not long after the Q&A broadcast.

“[Abbott] told us that he would support a conscience vote if there was sufficient interest in the Liberal Party,” Thomas said.

“While Tony Abbott has very strong views against marriage equality, I know there are many other Liberal MPs who strongly support equality and they should have a voice so they can represent the majority of Australians who know that it’s time for marriage equality.”

Abbott has publicly suggested that Liberal MPs could cross the floor to vote in favour of same-sex marriage without fear of being penalised but has so far stopped short of allowing a conscience vote.

The petition can be found here.

In related news, the GetUp! ‘It’s Time’ ad released in the week leading up to the ALP National Conference to press the case for change has topped the AdNews Viral Video Chart, coming in at number one ahead of campaigns by corporate heavyweights including Samsung, Telstra and Sony Pictures Australia.

The GetUp! video has been watched by more than 3,600,000 people on YouTube, and shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook and more than 24,000 times on Twitter.

The AdNews Viral Video Chart ranks brand-funded videos in Australia and is updated fortnightly based on data from video-sharing sites such as YouTube and activity on Facebook and Twitter.

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