Retired judge Michael Kirby reached the pinnacle of his profession and served on the High Court of Australia for 13 years, but despite this he said today that he is a 'second-class citizen' because he can't marry his partner of 43 years.
Kirby, 73, while being questioned by the senate inquiry into legalising same-sex marriage said: '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' reported Sydney Morning Herald.
'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,' said Kirby of his relationship with Dutch emigre Johan van Vloten, who has lived with Kirby since 1969.
'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,' continued Kirby in response to an argument often made by various representatives of Christianity in Australia.
Former premier of New South Wales and current Labor MP Kristina Keneally also appeared before the senate committee into legal affairs today.
Keneally spoke about how her Catholic faith informed her support for same-sex marriage. 'Catholics have a responsibility to form their conscience,' she said. 'A Catholic who has formed their conscience cannot be compelled to act contrary to it.'
The senate legal affairs committee will hear from individuals, religious groups, lawyers and gay and lesbian groups today and tomorrow in Sydney and Melbourne. They are expected to announce their recommendations on 6 June.