Former High Court judge Michael Kirby received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Indiana University (IU) at a ceremony on Saturday.
Kirby already serves on the Board of Governors at the University's Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender and Reproduction. Back in the 1940s and 50s, Dr Alfred Kinsey undertook initial research into human sexuality.
In a speech at the ceremony, Kirby told the audience that at the time of Kinsey's research, his sexual orientation was criminalised and something he "was supposed to be thoroughly ashamed of". Kirby reflected on the effect Kinsey's research had had on him.
"It would have been quite easy, really, to keep the big dark secret hidden," he said. "Some still do. But my partner, now of forty years, Johan, originally from the Netherlands, said, 'We owe it to the next generation to speak the truth.' So we have done so. Essentially, as Doctor Kinsey showed all those years ago, it was no big deal."
Kinsey had shown that being homosexual was a variant of nature, revealed by science, and that his research offered hope and dignity to those who may hide their face, suffer stigma or be frightened of their own reality, said Kirby.
"I can tell you, it is a most precious gift," he said. "It has helped to change the world. Indiana, USA, and its great University, can be proud of the contribution."
Kirby also said he looked forward to the promise of new links between IU and the Australian National University.
- Sarah Sharples