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Justice Michael Kirby.
As Australia continues to debate equal marriage, retired Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby testified before a Parliamentary committee. He said that as a homosexual man who was unable to marry his partner of 43 years, he remained a "second-class citizen."
Kirby, who has been open about his homosexuality since 1999, when he came out in Who's Who in Australia by naming Johan van Vloten as his long-term partner, appeared before a Senate committee considering a bill that would institute equal marriage rights in Australia. The retired justice spoke of his personal experience, of the fact that he would like to be able to marry van Vloten.
"A loving relationship of tenderness, of gentleness and affection, and fidelity and support is a beautiful thing and anyone who would disrespect it is not a kind person," he said.
As reported in the Brisbane Times Kirby said he was there as a private citizen of Australia and a homosexual man, who believed the law should be changed.
"I have never had a satisfactory explanation to me of how my loving relationship with my partner in any way damaged the institution of marriage or would if marriage were available to us, damage that relationship, or diminish it or degrade it in any fashion whatsoever," he said.
Kirby added that it was a matter of great sadness that churches largely opposed moves to legalize same-sex marriage.
At one point during his testimony, one of the committee members asked whether his definition of relationship equality extended to polygamists who may want to marry multiple partners.
Baiting the retired Justice of the High Court, the senator asked, "So what would you say to polygamists who are now agitating for the same rights as homosexual couples, 'it's not your time just yet'?"
Kirby responded that that was not the question before the committee.
Then, referring to his distinguished legal career that culminated in his appointment to the High Court, where he served from 1996 to 2009, he added: "I rose to be one of the significant judicial citizens of this country, but I was always a second-class citizen."
"I am still a second-class citizen."
"The question for the committee is whether that should be changed."
At the hearing, Kirby also warned that Australia was falling behind other nations such as Portugal, Mexico, and Argentina, where gay marriage is legal.
The videos below record a keynote address Kirby presented earlier this year at a women's legal society's luncheon on the subject of equal marriage rights.