find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Property lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Property Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Impressive client list, national firm · Well-led and high-performing team
View details
Senior family lawyer - Melbourne
Category: Family Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Outstanding national firm · High-calibre family law team
View details
Kirby says gay lawyers still face discrimination

Kirby says gay lawyers still face discrimination

Michael Kirby says that while the days of "don't ask don't tell" with regards to homosexuality does not apply to him anymore, lawyers and judges still face barriers when it comes to being open…

Michael Kirby says that while the days of "don't ask don't tell" with regards to homosexuality does not apply to him anymore, lawyers and judges still face barriers when it comes to being open about their sexuality.

"I played by the rule of 'don't ask don't tell' early in my legal career," the former High Court Judge told Lawyers Weekly this week. "While I have been open about my sexuality for a long time now, there is no doubt that gay people still face significant levels of discrimination in Australia."

Kirby made the comments ahead of the screening of the documentary; Michale Kirby: Don't Forget the Justice Bit, on the Compass program on ABC on Sunday night. The program recounts Kirby's legal career going back to his days as a student at Sydney University in the 1950's, and includes interviews with his partner of more than 40 years, Johan van Vloten.

In the documentary, Kirby reveals why he likes to wear a yellow jacket to social functions, the time he acted for the writer Bob Ellis when he was on a trespass charge while they were both students, and the difficulties Kirby faced being a gay man in Australia in the 1950s and 60s.

"My soul is at peace[with my sexuality]," Kirby remarks in the program. "But for a long time, I had to postpone daily realities."

In discussing the documentary and many other matters with Lawyers Weekly, Kirby opened up about his sexuality and religious beliefs.

"I am very uncomfortable with politicians giving interviews in front of a church," Kirby said. "It is inconceivable that Menzies, Whitlam or Fraser would have done such a thing...religion should be a private thing."

Kirby said that being a Christian helped him as a judge to "have an open, tolerant and compassionate view". He also said he believes that, on the whole, the Australian justice system works well. "I am very proud to work in a legal system where judges are uncorrupted," he said. "We can be very proud of the legal system we have and the values it promotes."

However, he does not hold back when talking about where the law has failed: "The fact is that the law doesn't get it right all the time," he said. "It didn't get it right for Aboriginal Australians, women, refugees and homosexuals...the rule of law alone is not enough to ensure a tolerant and civilised society."

An in-depth discussion that airs Michael Kirby's views on balancing his Christian beliefs with being a High Court Judge, why he is as busy now in retirement as he has ever been, his views on why Australia will have a Bill of Rights "in due course" and why he is still passionate about issues concerning human rights and social justice will be featured in an upcoming edition of Lawyers Weekly.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Kirby says gay lawyers still face discrimination
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Warning
Aug 23 2017
NT Law Society sounds alarm on mandatory sentencing
The Law Society Northern Territory has issued a warning over mandatory sentencing, saying it hasn’...
Unite
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...