On the eve of MPs reporting back to the Parliament on their constituents views on same-sex marriage, marriage equality advocates have met Prime Minister Julia Gillard to put their case for reform.

At Parliament House on Tuesday night, Gillard met with a range of advocates for reform to hear their views and to answer their questions about her opposition to the issue.

It was the first time an Australian Prime Minister has formally met with advocates for marriage equality.

Attending the hour-long meeting were former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps and wife Jackie Stricker-Phelps; Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) national spokesperson Shelley Argent; Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign director Rodney Croome; and same-sex mental health specialist Paul Martin.

Phelps and Stricker-Phelps told the Prime Minister about the pain of not having their overseas marriage recognised in Australia and gave her letters written by their children about the need for equality.

“I am very pleased we have opened a dialogue with the Prime Minister and hope to continue to talk to her about this issue,” Phelps said.

Croome emphasised the importance of marriage equality as a way of promoting inclusion and participation in family life and told Gillard she has a historic opportunity to make Australian a more just and equitable nation.

“In response to reports that the Labor Party may adopt a conscience vote on marriage equality before the National Conference has a chance to deal with the issue in December, the Prime Minister gave us an assurance there will be a debate on marriage equality at the National Conference”, Croome said.

Paul Martin spoke to Gillard about the link between mental health, internalised homophobia and the inability to marry.

“I felt Ms Gillard listened respectfully and seemed to take on board what I was saying. She accepted information about marriage equality and mental health from a recent statement by the American Psychological Association,” he said.

Shelley Argent said the meeting had been an opportunity to let the Prime Minister know the importance parents put on the issue of marriage equality for their sons and daughters.

“I felt Ms Gillard listened and we gave her another perspective on an issue that not only affects couples but their families and friends,” Argent said.

“The meeting gave me hope that if the National Conference is positive on this issue she won’t stand in the way of marriage equality being presented to Parliament.”

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