Former High Court judge Michael Kirby married his longtime partner Johan van Vloten last night, on the 50th anniversary of the night they met at a Sydney gay bar.
Kirby announced their plan to get married in November last year following the legalisation of same-sex marriage earlier in 2018.
“We were not all that enthusiastic,” he said in a talk last year.
“Not because we didn’t support the right of citizens to get married if they wished to, and not to be disqualified if they were LGBT” but because it “just seemed a little artificial” and “a little late for the confetti after so long together”.
“And it also seemed to us a little bit patriarchal,” he said.
“Many gay people call each other husband. Our relationship is not like husband and husband. Our relationship essentially is one of partner and partner or spouse and spouse,” he said.
At the ceremony in Bondi Junction last night, celebrant Michelle Bailey spoke about the way their relationship had defied societal and governmental lack of acceptance, the ABC reported.
“Shared love does not seek permission from officials for its existence,” she said.
“At this stage, they did not feel that they had anything to prove about their love.
“Fifty years and counting says it all.”
Bailed said their marriage, fifty years to the day, was “proof positive of the capacity of love to prevail over obstacles, hostility, change and the passing of time.”
“Johan added support, common sense and practical wisdom to Michael’s approach to life, the law and the other problems they faced together.
“Johan has kept them both laughing and solving life’s problems … whenever there has been an argument, Michael has always given in and taken the blame.
“These things are not expected to change.”
Speaking to the Star Observer in 2015, Kirby described coming out to his mother after van Vloten had spent years coming to Sunday night dinners with his family.
“I didn’t verbalise it with my mother until she was dying and I felt uncomfortable of severing that bind without having been totally honest to her,” Kirby recalled.
“So I told her, just before she died, and she looked at me and said, ‘Michael, I didn’t come down in the last shower’.
“‘You’ve been bringing Johan to Sunday dinner for the last 30 years, do you think I was blind?'”
In an interview with ABC Radio National ahead of the wedding, Kirby said that despite seeing gay friends marry and divorce, it simply felt like the right time.
“The 50th anniversary was just too romantic for us to let go.”