The broader gay community is owed a public apology by both the church and the country, former High Court judge Michael Kirby says.
Debate on an apology heated up last week after a News Ltd story zeroed in on Kirby’s views published earlier this year in a collection of law essays, Future Justice.
“One day, there will be a big parliamentary apology in Australia to gay people for the oppression that was forced on them and the inequalities that were maintained in the law well beyond their use-by date,” Kirby wrote in his essay Homosexuality and Love. “Just like the delayed 2008 apology to the Aboriginal people of our country.”
Kirby said the news article failed to include his calls for churches to also apologise for their part in perpetuating and reinforcing homophobia.
“When a Pope eventually [reverses the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality] that substantial position of nasty attitudes to gay people will disappear in the church overnight,” he wrote.
“And then, as with the earlier apology to Galileo, the apology for the Medieval Inquisition and the apology to abused children, we will see the Christian churches giving a wholehearted apology to gay people. I hope I live to see it.”
Kirby told Southern Star he disagreed with the argument that another public apology would diminish the national “Sorry” offered to Indigenous Australians because homophobia is “still a live force in Australia.”
“We should be ready to give them as often as they are justified,” he said.
“And that is certainly the case for sexual minorities in Australia, who for too long, and still in some respects, have been treated as second-class citizens.
“Experience in the courts and in modern mediation teaches that apologies and expressions of regret frequently have a beneficial effect on future relationships.”
Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Alex Greenwich said he supported the call for an apology if the Rudd Government promised to address current issues of inequality such as harmonious adoption and marriage laws.
“What we don’t want is rhetoric. What we do want is action,” he said.
“Justice Kirby is right to point out the wrongs that have been done to our community because of who we are and that’s something that should be rectified.
“What I think is obviously more meaningful is action, and following action, an apology would be relevant.”
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