By ROD McGUIRK
CANBERRA, Australia – Australian gay and lesbian couples will try to change Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s opposition to same-sex marriage when they dine at her official residence after activists won a charity auction to attend a private dinner party.
Gillard had offered to host the dinner for any six guests at her official address in the national capital Canberra at an auction during the National Press Gallery’s annual charity ball on June 15.
The highest bidder was the activist group GetUP!, which offered 31,000 Australian dollars ($33,000) for the table as part of its campaign to introduce same-sex marriage to Australia.
GetUp! spokesman Paul Mackay said Thursday that he hoped the dinner would sway the prime minister and lead her center-left Labor Party to change its policy on gay marriage at its annual national conference to be held at a date to be set late in the year.
A previous government amended federal law in 2004 to make clear that only a union between a man and a woman can be legally recognized as a marriage in Australia.
Gillard- who has never married- is the first Australian prime minister to live with a common law partner, hairdresser Tim Mathieson, in the official residence known as The Lodge. She is opposed to gay marriage.
“She will be a hard one to turn, less for her personal choices on marriage, but because she’s clearly on the record as saying she’s not for marriage equality for a whole heap of reasons, including her religious upbringing,” Mackay said.
Gillard was brought up as a Baptist and won prizes for her Bible knowledge as a schoolgirl but is now an atheist.
Mackay said he did not believe dinner conversation would be entirely about gay marriage.
“They’ll have the whole dinner, so there might be some pleasantries before they get down to business,” Mackay said.
Under the auction conditions, the dinner is to be held within 16 days on a date that will fit the prime minister’s busy schedule.
Only a lesbian couple- Sandy Miller and her fiancee of two years Louise Bucke- are so far on the guest list. Mackay said the six will include lesbian and homosexual male couples.
Miller has two sons aged 9 and 11 from a previous marriage.
“Our youngest often asks us: ‘Mommies, are you going to be engaged forever? Why don’t you get married?”‘ Miller said in a statement.
“It has been hard trying to explain that our government won’t let us get married, and he doesn’t understand why everyone else can get married and become a family legally and we can’t,” she added.
Gillard’s office did not immediately reply to The Associated Press’s request for comment.