Defence Minister Stephen Smith is the latest Labor MP to back a change to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Smith cited society’s growing acceptance and tolerance of same-sex relationships as reason to support a change to Labor’s platform at the ALP National Conference.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convenor Alex Greenwich said the minister’s comments were reflective of the wider community.

“Like Stephen Smith, many Australians have thought about this reform and opened their hearts and minds to the importance of equality for same-sex couples,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what poll you look at, or what community forum you go to, it is clear most Australians support marriage equality.

The Labor Party will vote to amend their national platform to support same-sex marriage at the conference which starts in Sydney today.

Greenwich said people like Stephen Smith have an historic opportunity.

“From union delegates to senior cabinet ministers, ALP members are looking forward to this weekend’s historic opportunity to show their party’s support for fairness, equality, and love,” he said.

AME will today join advocacy group GetUP in presenting a petition of more than 130,000 signatures to prominent conference delegates.

NSW Opposition Transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe, ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr, WA Senator Louise Pratt and federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese Anthony Albanese are expected to be on hand to collect the petition. Other politicians expected to be there include Victorian senator Gavin Marshall, NSW senator Doug Cameron and Steve McCartney from the Australian Mineworkers Union, Katrine Hildyard from the Australian Services Union, WA ALP president Alanna Clohesy, WA parliamentarians Jon Ford and Dr Sally Talbot, and Australian Services Union secretary Sally McManus.

It comes ahead Saturday’s planned rally for marriage equality which will start out at Hyde Park North at midday, before marching on the conference at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour at 12.50pm.

The event will open with an acknowledgement of country by indigenous academic Larissa Behrendt who will be followed by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras chair Pete Urmson and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

The rally will then hear from gay refugees Clary and Walter, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and activist norrie mAy-welby before leaving Hyde Park to march to the conference.

Arriving at Darling Harbour shortly after 1pm, the crowd will hear from Equal Love Melbourne convenor Ali Hogg, Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich, the former Australian Medical Association chief Dr Kerryn Phelps, and PFLAG Australia national spokeswoman Shelley Argent.

Labor movement speakers at the rally will include the NSW Secretary of the pro-marriage equality Australian Services Union, Sally McManus, Rainbow Labor’s Senator Louise Pratt and the Member for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler.

The event will be closed by Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) co-convenors Cat Rose and Ben Cooper.

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