Margaret Court embroiled in same-sex row that threatens to spill over into Australian Open

 

Tennis great Margaret Court told Reuters today she was sad her religious views were being used as fuel for a planned protest at next week's Australian Open, but said she remained staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage.

Activists are calling for people attending the year's first grand slam event, starting Jan. 16, to unfurl "rainbow flags" at the Margaret Court Arena, the third show-court at Melbourne Park named after the Australian.

Court, a 24-times grand slam singles champion and a pastor at the Victory Life Centre church in Perth, has long opposed same-sex marriage but sparked a fierce backlash from retired women's champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, both homosexuals, when she reiterated her views in a Western Australian newspaper recently.

Court was quoted describing advocacy of same-sex marriage as promoting "unhealthy" and "unnatural" unions.

"To dismantle this sole definition of marriage and try to legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices that include sodomy, reveals our ignorance as to the ills that come when society is forced to accept law that violates their very own God-given nature of what is right and what is wrong," a local newspaper quoted her as saying.

Court on Wednesday told Reuters that she stuck by her views on same-sex marriage but denied she was anti-gay.

"I actually love homosexual people," the 69-year-old said in a telephone interview. "I do not have anything against them. It's just my view (about gay marriage) and it's in the scriptures ... The bible will always be the TV guide to my life.

"I believe marriage is something between a man and a woman."

Court said she had previously expressed to Navratilova that she would not change her views.

"I said 'Martina, God loves you but a wrong does not make a right... Don't try to change me'."

Court, who plans to attend the Australian Open, said she was "sad" protesters might seek to use the tennis as a venue for expressing their views.

"Minority groups can have their views (but) as soon as a Christian stands up it's not allowed," she said.

Same sex marriage is legal in a number of countries and in several states in the United States, including New York. But it remains illegal in Australia; although same sex partners have equal rights to heterosexual couples under other areas of the law.

The "Rainbow Flags over Margaret Court Arena" Facebook page is calling on people to break their silence in supporting the initiative.

"Our Mission: To support the gay community by inundating MCA with rainbow flags during the Australian Open," it says.

Australian Open organisers have bolstered security in recent years after the grand slam was marred by a number of violent incidents between rival ethnic camps of tennis supporters, but would not be drawn as to how they would respond to the possibility of the "rainbow" protest unfolding.

"We will be having our usual security review as the tournament nears and obviously this is something we are aware of and will need to prepare for," tournament director Craig Tiley said.

"Margaret Court has won more grand slam titles than any other player and has been honoured for her achievements in tennis. She is a legend of the sport. We respect that her playing career is second to none. But her personal views are her own and are not shared by Tennis Australia."

Equal Love, a national campaign advocating gay marriage, endorsed the initiative and said they expected at least 1,000 people to participate.

"Margaret Court has shown herself to have bigoted views... We would not think that the tournament organisers would regard people's right for equality in love to be considered a security incident," a spokesperson for the campaign told Reuters.

Reuters

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower