• Michael Kirby has married his partner of 50 years. (AAP)
“They explored the world and each other. They liked what they discovered.”
Samuel Leighton-Dore

12 Feb 2019 - 10:16 AM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2019 - 12:48 PM

Australians have taken to social media to celebrate the marriage of former High Court Justice Michael Kirby and his partner of 50 years, Johan van Vloten.

“They explored the world and each other. They liked what they discovered,” celebrant Michelle Bailey ('Michelle the Shellibrant') told the wedding crowd yesterday, according to Sydney Morning Herald.

She added that the pair's relationship was “proof positive of the capacity of love to prevail over obstacles, hostility, change and the passing of time”.

Ms Bailey continued, recalling the challenges overcome by the couple: "Together they suffered the loss of beloved family members. They also lost precious friends to the scourge that was, and still is, AIDS.

“Tonight's step is not therefore even a ‘new beginning’. They insist that it is a continuation of what began 50 years ago."

"Those who are here already know their story. And those who are not here, and are interested, can find it described readily enough. For Johan and Michael themselves, their story is written on their hearts," Ms Bailey, who also works for the Kirby Institute, said.

Australians were quick to celebrate the union, with The Kirby Institute tweeting: "Congratulations to our patron Michael Kirby @HonMichaelKirby, who married his partner of fifty years, Johan van Vloten!"

Another social media user reflected on the impact Kirby had made on her during a brief encounter.

"This is what true love looks like!" She wrote. "I once had the pleasure to be seated next to Michael Kirby on a flight & what an absolute delight he was. We chatted about many things, including raising my then teenage kids. I remember feeling so validated by him."

Speaking to Hugh Riminton on Radio National over the weekend, Kirby reflected on the night he met Vloten at a gay bar in 1969.

"He came in at about quarter to nine and the relationship that was made that night lasted from that moment on really, and it's still going strong."

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