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

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

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

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

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests