A prominent Australian judge has urged Ireland’s Law Reform Commission to be strong, courageous and bold when pushing forward gay equality.
Justice Michael Kirby, a Justice of the Australian High Court, has lived openly with his gay partner for the last 37 years.
He was in Dublin yesterday to address the commission.
The judge spoke about his experiences of discrimination, saying “if you haven’t felt that sting, you don’t realise how important it is to have law reformers who are strong, courageous and bold.”
On Monday the Irish Prime Minister pledged to bring in new laws to legalise civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.
Bertie Ahern, opening a gay community centre in Dublin, said that he wanted to move as quickly as possible on the issue.
He told the assembled crowd: “This Government is committed to providing a more supportive and secure legal environment for same-sex couples.”
Justice Kirby spoke about the change in legal status and atittudes towards gay men in his lifetime.
“They’re in the highest courts, some are hairdressers and in the stereotypical jobs, but they’re everywhere,” he said, according to the Irish Times.
“They’ve always been everywhere, they always will be everywhere and if people have a problem with it, they really just have to take an aspirin and have a good lie down.”
Justice Kirby is fighting a personal battle against discrimination in his own country at present.
The Attorney General of Australia said last week he will not change the pension arrangements of judges so that same-sex partners are given the same provision as spouses.
The country’s Parliament is considering changes to judge’s pension, and opposition politicians have pointed out that this would be a good opportunity to change the law in favour of equality.
Justice Kirby wrote to Attorney General Philip Ruddock requesting that the law be changed so that his partner of nearly 40 years, Johan von Vloten, would receive a spouse pension of $140,000 (£59,480) if he outlived him.
Justice Kirby is due to retire in 2009 at the age of 70.
In Ireland yesterday, he urged law reformers to move quickly to convert government promises into actual laws.
“In Australia, whenever there was a change of government, that is a great time to pounce because in the first few months when they get in, they’ve got all their ideas.” he said, according to the Irish Times.