Margaret Court is arguably one of the greatest tennis players in history, having been the first woman in the open era to win the singles grand slam (all four major tournaments in the same calendar year) and has won 24 of those tournament titles (11 in the open era), a record that still stands1.
In a recent letter to the West Australian Newspaper, Court stated that she will boycott Qantas because the company is a corporate supporter of same-sex marriage. This is true to form as, in 1994, when delivering a speech at a prayer breakfast at Parliament House she stated: “Homosexuality is an abomination to the Lord! Abortion is an abomination to the Lord!”1
Since her West Australian letter, she has been at it again, stating on a christian radio station that “tennis is full of lesbians, because even when I was playing there was (sic) only a couple there, but those couple that lead, that (sic) took young ones into parties and things”. Much of the rest of what she said is indecipherable, but it seems to boil down to ‘bullying’ and ‘stuff put into children’s minds’, will make them think “’maybe I am a girl’ when they are a boy”. She then stated “that’s what Hitler did, that’s what Communism did – got the minds of the children. And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”2 She seems to be unaware that homosexuals were persecuted by Communism and Nazism and in Nazi Germany were usually incarcerated in concentration camps3, where many died or were killed. Logic and reality have never been the strong suit of christians, particularly if they conflict with their current dogma.
When Court’s boycott of Qantas became known, she was subjected to all sorts of criticism for her views, even to the point that some suggested changing the name of Margaret Court Arena. Most of the support she received simply stated that she had a right to speak out. Many of these people, one suspects, were christians, as they seem to have entirely missed the point that Court did actually speak out and her opinion was heard across the country. Again, logic is not their strong point.
Court certainly has the right to speak her mind, however bitter and bigoted a mind it may be, but the rest of us do not have to take her views seriously. Just because she has the right to speak, doesn’t mean everybody else should acquiesce and not disagree with her views. More importantly, just because she has the right to speak, doesn’t mean she has the right to inflict her weird beliefs on others.
Margaret Court has a right to oppose same sex marriage, but she should not be fearful of it, because any proposed change to the law will not make same sex marriage compulsory, it will just allow those who want to get married to do so. It is already law in numerous countries, and has been for some time. The Netherlands allowed same sex marriage in 2001, three years before John Howard changed the Marriage Act to prevent it in Australia. It is also legal in Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil (2013), France (2013), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), Luxembourg (2015), United States (2015), Ireland (2015), Colombia (2016) and Finland (2017), and Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has ruled that same sex couples have the right to marry, and the court has given the government two years to amend the law to that effect4.
The furore created by Court’s pontification on same sex marriage has caused someone to dredge up a quote from her from 1970 regarding Apartheid in South Africa. She said to the New Zealand Herald: “I love South Africa; I have many friends there. Of course, I will keep going to play. It is a tragedy that politics has come into sport – but if you ask me, South Africa has the racial situation rather better organised than anyone else, certainly much better than the United States.”5 If that is not a disgrace, nothing is.
As for the name of Margaret Court Arena being changed, it is worth considering. While there is no close comparison, you have to ask yourself if you would contemplate naming a stadium after O.J. Simpson (who was acquitted of murder), Oscar Pistorius (convicted of murder) or Tiger Woods (extramarital affairs and allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol). Perhaps naming a cinema after Mel Gibson (anti-semitism, racism) or a child-care centre after Michael Jackson (acquitted of molesting a child), are more comparable6. However, I suspect a better way to give Margaret Court the proverbial middle finger would be to organise some sort of LGBTQI event at the venue, perhaps the Sydney Mardi Gras could host its own Melbourne Tennis Tournament. This may cause Court to request that her name be removed from the arena. In which case, I’d agree that Evonne Goolagong Arena would be an eminently suitable name. She was a great tennis player, and is not a bigot.
Margaret Court and all christians need to realise that their peculiar current interpretation of an odd little Iron-age book is just a transient phase, with very few people in polite society now having, let alone whipping, their slaves, or stoning young women to death if they have committed adultery, or killing children if they dishonour their parents. The time of the pious telling others how to live their lives is over, and they need to realise it. Civil law trumps religious lore.
- Hall, E.A., 2014. Arthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p. 209.