Prime Minister Julia Gillard has postponed a dinner she pledged to have with progressive activist group GetUp and same-sex couples who want to be married into 2012 – well after the ALP National Conference where the issue of same-sex marriage will be debated.

Earlier today the Prime Minister’s office called one of the couples meant to attend the dinner, to announce the delay into the new year.

The news was revealed tonight on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report.

The dinner was won at a charity auction in June, organised by the National Press Club, which GetUp won by bidding $31,000.

A deadline of between 11 and 16 days was set for all auctioned pledges in 2011 after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott took 323 days to deliver on a similar auctioned pledge last year.

Another dinner pledge, won at auction by Australian Marriage Equality (AME) at the same event, was delivered on by three of the four federal independent MPs at the beginning of November – with Bob Katter still to attend a separate dinner.

AME national convener Alex Greemwich said he was disappointed by the delay.

“It was our hope that the informal, person-to-person setting of a dinner would prompt the Prime Minister to open her heart to the Australian families affected by discrimination in the Marriage Act, especially before key decisions are made at the ALP National Conference,” Greenwich

“The Prime Minister isn’t honouring her commitment to a dinner that hundreds chipped-in to make happen. By delaying the dinner till sometime in the New Year, the Prime Minister is again trying take away momentum from a reform that so many within her party want to see happen”

“As disappointed as we are by the delay, we are ever hopeful that the many grassroots supporters of marriage equality within the Labor Party will help make this reform happen.”

GetUp campaigner Paul Mackay also expressed disappointment in the delay by the Prime Minister.

“The parameters of the auction suggested we’d have the dinner within a fortnight, but understanding the schedule the PM keeps, we were flexible, asking only that the event take place before the Labor Party National Conference,” Mackay said.

“We’re disappointed that the Prime Minister hasn’t come good on her end of the bargain yet.

“The face-to-face time with the PM was billed as a ‘unique opportunity for corporate Australia’, but rather than dining with executives and business leaders Julia Gillard will be forced to make the case as to why these couples cannot have their relationships recognised in the same way other Australians do.

“It’s clear this dinner won’t happen prior to the Conference, as confirmed by tonight’s report on the ABC’s 730, and the PM has dodged having to confront these three couples face to face and tell them why their relationships are less valid that those Australians for whom marriage is freely available.

“Our hope was that those same-sex partners attending the dinner would help change the PM’s mind and bring an end to discrimination, so that one day soon their families will have the recognition and respect that other families have.

“Recent polling shows over 70 percent of ALP voters want to see marriage equality become law, let’s hope the PM is more comfortable listening to party membership at the conference and that is enough to change her mind on the issue.”

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