Lesbians, Gays Lobby Australian PM Over Dinner

Published February 21, 2012 12:54PM (EST)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an opponent of same-sex marriage, hosted a dinner for two lesbian couples and a pair of gay men Tuesday after an Australian activist group won a charity auction.

The couples used the three-course meal at Gillard's official residence in Canberra to lobby the prime minister to allow gay marriage.

Twelve-year-old Matthew Miller presented Gillard with flowers and two letters explaining why he and his brother Dylan, 9, would like their biological mother Sandy Miller to marry their other mother, Louise Bucke.

"Since they're not allowed to get married, they're basically being called not normal and we're not known as a proper family," Matthew told The Associated Press at Parliament House before the dinner, which the boys did not attend.

Along with Miller and Bucke, the other guests were Brisbane academic Sharon Dane, 54, who married Elaine Crump, 53, in Canada in a ceremony that is not recognized in Australia.

Steve Russell, 51, and John Dini, 29, decided against marrying overseas because it would carry no weight in Australia. While they could have a civil union recognized under state law in their hometown of Melbourne, they don't regard that as equal to marriage.

Alex Greenwich, a late inclusion on the invitation list who is spokesman for the lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, said the dinner gave the guests optimism.

"We all got the impression that her opposition was not immovable," he said.

Gillard's office said she would not immediately comment after the dinner.

The activist group GetUp! paid 31,000 Australian dollars ($33,270) for the dinner after winning a bidding war against a Christian lobby group at the Press Gallery of Australia annual charity ball in June last year.

Gillard's Labor Party lifted its long-standing opposition to gay marriage in December, and three separate bills have been introduced in Parliament that would change the Australian law which states that only a man and woman can marry.

But Gillard personally remains opposed to gay marriage, and it is unclear whether any of the bills will attract enough support to make same-sex marriages legal. No date for votes in Parliament have been set.

Polls show that most Australians support gay marriage, but the conservative opposition coalition and many government lawmakers remain opposed.

Gillard, 50, has never been married and is the first prime minister to live in the official residence with a common law partner, former hair dresser Tim Mathieson.

By Salon Staff

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