The Anti-Defamation Commission has urged Michael Kirby to withdraw contentious comments after the former High Court chief justice linked Jewish people who co-operated with the Nazi regime to gay Australians who want to boycott the same-sex marriage postal vote.

Mr Kirby, a prominent same-sex marriage advocate whose preference is for a free vote in parliament, initially declared he would have no part in the postal ballot but told The Weekend Australian he had always intended on voting Yes if it survived various legal challenges.

He drew fierce criticism from the Anti-Defamation Commission, a Jewish community group, after referring to the Holocaust while expressing his empathy for LGBTI Australians, such as his long-term partner, Johan van Vloten, who will not participate in the postal vote.

Mr Kirby said it made them feel like “second-class citizens”.

“During the run-up to the Second World War some Jewish ­people, though the situation was much more desperate and fraught, took part with the Nazis in the regulation of the Jewish community. Looking back on it, we can now see that that is something when you are being denigrated and treated unfairly and as a second-class citizen, you shouldn’t necessarily go along with,” Mr Kirby told ABC radio on Thursday.

Read the article by Rosie Lewis and Rick Morton in The Australian (subscription required).

[The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has issued a media release in defence of Michael Kirby.]

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