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John Howard challenged on gay spouses

Sun 15 Jul 2007 In: International News

Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby has written to the Howard Government regarding a change in the law to allow his partner to inherit his judicial pension when he dies. In a letter to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, Kirby called for changes to the judicial pension scheme so he and his long-term partner, Johan van Vloten, are treated the same as his married colleagues on the nation's highest court. The 68-year-old judge, who is due to retire in March 2009, spoke about his plea at a recent boardroom lunch. “Johan has put up with me for 38 years, and if I died he'd get nothing,” Justice Kirby said. Justice Kirby, who is one of the nation's longest-serving judges, will receive a pension of $226,338 when he retires. Without the change his partner will miss out on a part-pension worth $141,460 a year, payable for life, should Kirby die first. The letter was well timed, coming just as a government report called for equal pension rights for gay judges. It follows lobbying by several moderate Liberal MPs, including Warren Entsch, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Lindsay and Greg Hunt, for same-sex couples to receive equivalent rights as straight couples in areas such as welfare, superannuation and tax. Mr Ruddock today said that while the Federal Government was “not in favour of discrimination” it would be inappropriate to deal with Justice Kirby's request for changes to the law before other gay law reform. “So it is a matter which is before us; it is not a matter in which we are going to act in isolation in relation to a particular claim,” Ruddock told ABC Radio. “In connection with interdependent relationships, including same-sex relationships, the Government will consider making further changes to the relevant legislation on a case-by-case basis… in consultation with the relevant stakeholders, taking into account the relevant legal, policy and fiscal impacts.”     Ref: Same Same (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Sunday, 15th July 2007 - 1:18pm

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