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social sciences

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Kirby, Michael (b. 1939)  
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Kirby is a member of the Anglican Church and considers himself a religious person who adheres to the "good values and loving values" that were instilled in him from childhood. He is, however, disappointed that the church is not more accepting of homosexuality. In a 2003 interview he stated, "We're going to have to get through this rather dark period. We're going to have to get through it, I hope, without hurting a lot of young people who are torn between their love of their religion, which they associate with their parents and their upbringing and their family, and the need to be true to themselves, which is terribly important."

Kirby has spoken in favor of same-sex marriage, both for the social affirmation of such unions and for the legal and economic benefits currently denied to gay and lesbian couples. He has called his long committed relationship with van Vloten "a great blessing in my life."

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"For the stressful, pressured work of a professional lawyer, a loving and supportive home life is specially precious," said Kirby in a 2005 speech.

Van Vloten attended High Court functions with Kirby and accompanied him to formal luncheons and dinners with the Queen, the Prime Minister, and the Governor-General, as well as to other official events.

Kirby struck an optimistic note in remarks at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Gay Games in his home city of Sydney.

"Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We participate because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are numbered.

"In our future world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld."

In his speech, Kirby honored "people of courage," including activists Rodney Croome and Nicholas Toonen, who led a long and eventually successful campaign to have homosexuality decriminalized in Tasmania; Neal Blewett, an early leader in the effort to combat AIDS in Australia; and Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë, the victim of a homophobic stabbing.

He praised Gay Games founder Tom Waddell and cited other openly gay athletes, such as Olympic champion Greg Louganis, Australian rugby star Ian Roberts, and American rugby player Mark Bingham, who had planned to attend the Sydney games but died on September 11, 2001 while trying to help regain control of the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 and to save the lives of those aboard.

"Indeed," declared Kirby, "I think of everyone who affirms the fundamental unity of all human beings. Who rejects ignorance, hatred, and error. And who embraces love, which is the ultimate foundation of all human rights."

In 2009, Kirby retired from the High Court. Fittingly, given his frequent comments about the desirability of women in the judiciary, he was succeed by a woman, Justice Virginia Bell.

Upon his retirement, he accepted a number of honorary academic appointments at Australian universities.

He has continued to be outspoken in favor of equal marriage rights. In May 2012, for example, he told a Parliamentary committee considering a marriage equality bill that despite his having risen to become a significant member of the Australian judiciary, he always felt that he was a "second-class citizen" and would remain so until gay people had equal rights, including equal marriage rights.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anglicanism / Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church in the U. S. A. is a part, has dealt with issues of sexuality in complex ways, not all of them favorable to its glbtq membership.

social sciences >> Overview:  Australia

Given its history, it is somewhat surprising that Australia now has exceptionally gay-friendly laws and public attitudes, with widespread public tolerance and acceptance of the glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sydney

With thriving glbtq communities, an accommodating atmosphere, and a mammoth Mardi Gras celebration, Sydney is a center of glbtq culture and a favorite destination for tourists of all genders and sexualities.

arts >> Bingham, Mark

Mark Bingham, San Francisco businessman and rugby enthusiast, is believed to have helped avert the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a populated landmark on September 11, 2001.

social sciences >> Delanoë, Bertrand

Although the homosexuality of French politician and Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë has not been an issue in his campaigns for public service, he was targeted for assassination by a man who hates homosexuals.

arts >> Gay Games

A quadrennial sporting and cultural event designed for the glbtq community, the Gay Games has become a lucrative attraction for host cities.

arts >> Louganis, Greg

Widely regarded as the greatest diver in history, Olympic champion Greg Louganis has acknowledged both his homosexuality and his status as a person living with AIDS.

social sciences >> Murphy, Frank

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy had a distinguished and varied career in politics and law despite rumors of homosexuality that arose because of his close relationship with his trusted adviser and constant companion Edward Kemp.

arts >> Roberts, Ian

At the height of his athletic career, Australian rugby superstar Ian Roberts made the courageous decision to come out as a gay man.

arts >> Waddell, Tom

Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell is best known for founding the Gay Games, a sports and arts event modeled on the Olympics.


Attard, Monica. "Record of Interview of Justice Michael Kirby." (November 16, 2003).

Gibson Mike. "Coming Right Out with Style." Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia) (April 21, 1999): 10.

Giles, Katherine. "The Honourable Justice Michael Kirby: Witnessing the Birth of a Creative Spirit." Art + Law (June 2004):

Griffith, Chris. "Outspoken Kirby Takes on Multitude of Targets." Courier Mail (Queensland, Australia) (March 13, 2002): 2.

Henderson, Ian. "Shamed Heffernan Apologises." The Australian (March 20, 2002): 1.

"High Court of Australia: Biography: Hon. Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG."

Kirby, Michael. "Seven Ages of a Lawyer." Leo Cussen Memorial Lecture (October 25, 1999).

_____. "Ten Years in the High Court: Continuity & Change." (October 17, 2005).

Peake, Ross. "PM Dumps Heffernan." Canberra Times (March 19, 2002): A1.

"The 6th Gay Games--Sydney Australia." Gay Line Wellington (2002).

Summers, Claude. "Retired High Court Justice Michael Kirby Testifies in Favor of Marriage Equality." (May 4, 2012):


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Kirby, Michael  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated May 4, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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