Former High Court justice Michael Kirby would swap 10 judges for one honest homosexual like singer Ricky Martin, he has told a conference in Brisbane.

Former Justice of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby opened and closed his keynote address at the 2nd International Queer Studies Conference in Brisbane today by playing Latino singer Ricky Martin's song Livin' La Vida Loca.

Justice Kirby, who revealed he was gay while serving on the High Court, praised the singer for coming out about his homosexuality.

"At the beginning of this month Ricky Martin said, I quote: 'The secret has become too heavy for me to keep inside, so joyfully I embrace my homosexual identity as something worth celebrating'," Justice Kirby said.

"He's not a philosopher but what he said was very powerful and spoke of an oppression that was forced on him and forced on many people in society and I would trade 10 judges of the highest court for one person like Ricky Martin."

While he had praise for the pop star, he had criticism for the federal government over its inaction in introducing laws which acknowledge same-sex marriages.

"The present federal government have not thought it timely to attack the issue (of legalising gay marriages). It has of course been debated in party conferences," he said.

"It has also been agitated in the trade union movement but so far it hasn't secured anybody in the federal parliament in the Labor Party to champion the cause.

"Peter Garrett (Federal Environment Minister) was reported as having at one stage supported gay marriages and there would be people from both sides of federal parliament who would support it.

"But at the moment they are hiding their heads and they are not doing much about it."

He said the Opposition was no better, quoting Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as saying: "from a conservative point of view it would be a good thing to encourage stable relationships".

Justice Kirby said strong religious beliefs promoting only the union of a man and a woman was holding the country back from granting gay people the right to marry, but he believes reform will come.

"Labor Party circles always include in Australia a component of people from the Irish Australian background and therefore often from a Roman Catholic upbringing ... a cohort in the Labor Party which generally supports confining marriage to people of the opposite sex," Justice Kirby said.

"That's where we stood at the time of the 2007 election.

"My partner and I have discussed the issue and probably would not get married if there were such a law because we have stuck it out for 41 long years and the idea of getting married we haven't fully embraced."

He said he understood why other homosexual partners wanted the right to marry because it represented equality of citizenship.

The Queering Paradigms II conference has attracted speakers from across the globe to highlight social issues faced by the gay and lesbian community and is being held at the Queensland University of Technology, finishing on Saturday.