The most high-profile gay judge in Australia has called on all homosexual people to come out of the cloest and fight homophobia.
Michael Kirby, a Justice of the High Court, has lived openly with his partner for the last 37 years.
In a speech in Sydney last night, as reported by Australian Associated Press, he stated he did not believe that prejudice would be eradicated in his lifetime.
He urged Australians to recall the formerly racist nature of their society, and realise that progress can be made.
Justice Kirby said a fear of difference was behind prejudice against the LGBT community.
“Such forces include the childish desire to erase differences in humanity and to stamp similarity and identity on everyone around us,” he said.
“It was this desire that lay at the heart of the former White Australia policy and of apartheid in South Africa.
“Prejudices and dislike will, ultimately, only recede when gay people themselves break the spell of silence and stand up to be counted.”
Kirby paid tribute to the many heterosexual people who fought for the rights of gay people, and changed their attitudes and Australian society.
The judge has always been forthright about his own sexuality, even mentioning his partner in Who’s Who. He faced criticism for admitting to a relationship with a man before 1984, when New South Wales decriminalised homosexuality.
However, as most people now view that law as unjust, there have been no formal moves to challenge his status as one of Australia’s top jurists.
In 2002, homophobic senator Bill Heffernan used parliamentary privilege to accuse Kirby of ‘trawling for rent boys.’
When the senator’s evidence was shown to be false, Justice Kirby responded:
“I accept Senator Heffernan’s apology and reach out my hand in a spirit of reconciliation. I hope my ordeal will show the wrongs that hate of homosexuals can lead to.”