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Churches told to catch up - The Mercury

Published: 2 December 2017

IT’S time for the churches to catch up with the science of sexual orientation and gender diversity, retired High Court justice Michael Kirby says.

Mr Kirby, the nation’s first openly gay judge and a self-described “old-fashioned Anglican”, told the Australian Association of Social Workers national symposium in Hobart yesterday that the recentmarriage equality postal survey had a silver lining.

“The flawed process had a silver lining and that was the outcome,” he said. “It’s a good thing that we had such an affirmative vote, but especially that it was right across Australia ... It happened through people standing up, it happened bottom up.” Nationally, the Yes vote was 61.6 per cent and in Tasmania it was 63.6 per cent.

“It happened because people came to the view that this is just irrational to hate people for something which they don’t choose and can’t change — it’s not rational, it’s not scientific,” Mr Kirby said.

“We’ve had the science of sexual orientation and gender diversity, we’ve had that for 40 years now and ... it’s about time, with respect, that the churches caught up with this.

“These are churches that preach the principle of love for one another, and reconciliation, and the unity of the human family, but all of them except the Quakers and the Uniting Church — and the Uniting is divided — all of them were against the ... postal survey.” Mr Kirby said his partner of 48 years, Johan van Vloten, urged him to make their relationship public in 1997 when Mr Kirby was a High Court justice.

“[He said] we owe it to the young people to stand up and be counted,” Mr Kirby said.

He said engaging people and helping them speak for themselves was the best way to encourage progress in society.

“Changing the law is one thing but then you’ve got to work to change the attitudes in society, and this is so for many disadvantaged groups, and it isn’t over for refugees, and it isn’t over for gays, and it isn’t over for the Aboriginal people, and it isn’t over for people of different racial groups, and it isn’t over for the disabled ... these are ongoing struggles.”For the LGBTIQ community, Mr Kirby said the biggest issue was stopping the violence and cruelty towards its members around the world.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers