Jan 13, 2012

Rainbow flags rule out love match with Margaret Court

If you support Australian values such as equality, fairness and mateship, whether you’re straight, gay or anything else, take along a little rainbow flag and wave it for the cameras, writes Doug Pollard, a broadcaster and journalist in Melbourne.

Margaret Court may well have been the finest female tennis player ever. The second woman in history to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. An unequalled match-winning percentage of 91.74 (1177/106). No one can take that away from her. So revered is she in the world of sport they named a temple of tennis after her, the Margaret Court Arena at Melbourne Park. I think we can fairly say she’s entitled to that. But it does grate on me, the way I imagine black people get cross at places named after Nigger Brown. Born a Catholic, she was obviously not made to believe what she was told, or follow the orders of a bunch of men, so nowadays she not only owns her own church, but an entire denomination -- Victory Life Centre Incorporated of Perth. An evangelical foundation, preaching that every word of the Bible is inerrant truth, her church nonetheless has no problem ignoring those words that do not suit her. Such as: "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church." (NASB, 1 Cor. 14:34-35) No such submission for our Margaret. But she is red-hot on all those verses that condemn homos-xuality. In 1994 she called homos-xuality an abomination. In 2002, Court said it was a sin of the flesh, a choice, and that with God’s help people could be cured. Perhaps, as a natural southpaw who switched to a right-handed grip, she thinks people can change their s-xual orientation as easily. She claims that homos-xuality destroys families. And last month she pushed herself into the gay marriage debate, stating: "Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homos-xuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take." Well, enough is enough. Tired of her trading on her faded tennis glory, and alarmed at the potential harm she could be causing, particularly to impressionable young people, something had to be done. The result is Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena, which began with a couple of tennis tragics in the US. One of them, Katie Johnson, an avid tennis player and fan from Atlanta, Georgia, started a Facebook page. It simply asks people to take rainbow flags with them to the tennis, or wear something rainbow. It seems to have struck a chord. New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, in town to report on the tournament, spoke about the issue on GLBTIQ radio station Joy 94.9 late Tuesday night. Katie noticed that I work at Joy, too, and asked me via Twitter if I could help. The rest just created itself. Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena isn’t a movement, it’s just an idea that started online and is still growing. I jumped in and suggested that Tennis Australia could distance themselves from Court’s bigotry by flying a rainbow flag over her arena. I thought it would be kinder to Court than having TA issue a public denunciation. People have asked why we must you use the Australian Open as a political platform. I’ll tell you. Australians are in thrall to sporting heroes. When I was interviewed about the issue on 2GB, Court was referred to as a "sacred" Australian sporting icon. Referring to her sporting status -- nothing to do with her religiosity. Court uses that sporting halo to sell her anti-gay messages. But they’re not true. And in some instances, they can be deadly. Let’s take the claim that she -- or rather, “God” -- can cure homos-xuality. All reputable reliable scientific evidence shows this is wrong. Scores of ex-gays who once proclaimed themselves cured have since come out as gay and admitted they were deceiving themselves, along with the rest of us. Even ex-gay promoting pastors in the US now admit the best anyone can manage is a suppression of homos-xual desire, achieved by constantly policing one’s own thoughts and behaviour. Psychiatric evidence shows this is a sure and certain route, not to liberation and happiness, but to depression, and, all too often, suicide. Should we remain silent, when by speaking out we can save lives? Should we allow this dangerous nonsense to go unchallenged because the person speaking them was once superlatively good at whacking a tennis ball around an arena? Clearly not. Let Court have the credit for her achievements, but she cannot be allowed to hide behind them, when the rate of GLBTI teen suicide is many times that of their straight counterparts. And why? Because they believe the rubbish peddled by this "sporting hero", this "sacred icon". Because their parents believe it, and throw them out of the family home. Because their peers believe it, and bully them relentlessly. Margaret Court is an enabler of misery. High-profile lesbian Dr Kerryn Phelps has called for Court's name to be erased from the arena that currently commemorates her. I think that would be vindictive and unkind. I think it would be enough if Tennis Australia were to hoist the rainbow flag, the symbol of the diverse GLBTI community, over the arena that bears her name whenever she is a present, as a reminder to her and to all the world that Australia does not condone bigotry, no matter how august the personage expressing it. Tennis Australia has issued a pretty robust statement, lauding her sporting achievements, but distancing itself from her homophobia:
"... her personal views are her own, and are definitely not shared by Tennis Australia. Like the WTA, we believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly. We concur wholeheartedly with the WTA who stated that 'all human beings, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or otherwise, should be treated equally'. "This is a fundamental right and principle, including within the world of sport.  Anyone advocating otherwise is advocating against fundamental and essential rights. "TA does not support any view that contravenes these basic human rights."
As we stand on the brink of finally having our loves recognised, values embraced and celebrated exactly as our heteros-xual counterparts have been able to do for centuries, with the hoped-for passage of the Marriage Equality Bill later this year, we must not allow the glories of the past to excuse the prejudices of the present. So please, if you support Australian values such as equality, fairness and mateship, whether you’re straight, gay or anything else, take along a little rainbow flag and wave it for the cameras. You never know whose heart you may lighten. *Doug Pollard is a gay broadcaster and journalist working in Melbourne. He produces and presents a program of GLBTIQ news and current affairs, The Rainbow Report, on Joy 94.9 every Tuesday at 7pm. He speaks, however, entirely for himself.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

59 thoughts on “Rainbow flags rule out love match with Margaret Court

  1. abarker

    “…preaching that every word of the Bible is inerrant truth, her church nonetheless has no problem ignoring those words that do not suit her.”

    So she’s a normal Christian then.

  2. SusieQ

    Tennis Oz are to be congratulated on their statement, as you are Doug, for explaining this issue so well.

  3. Scott

    Do you honestly think that homosexual kids are committing suicide and being bullied because of what an aging ex-tennis player has to say? If it was Sam Stoser, Benji Marshall, Michael Clark, Chris Judd or Lebron James saying these comments, I could understand the alarm. But it is Margaret Court, a woman of 69 who most people under the age of 30 would have problems picking out in a line up of grandmothers.
    Margaret was bought up in a different time. Her views are no longer the prevailing ones, but that doesn’t mean she is not entitled to them. So she does not agree with homosexuality. Well guess what; this is a view held by a large majority of people in the world over the age of 65. Thankfully, the crusties are on the way out as far as power goes. Generation X doesn’t put the same value on sexual orientation as previous generations, the Y’s even less so.
    All the protest is doing is drawing attention to the comments (so you could argue it is helping advocate her views), but hey, what ever is good for a few more column inches in the newspapers (or crikey blogs), right?

  4. zut alors

    The paradox is that many Christians aren’t so Christian.

  5. Mark from Melbourne

    Proof once again that being good at one thing doesn’t make you any more likely to be wise or right than the next person. The best way to deal with ratbag views is to give them no oxygen – unfortunately there are a whole lot of people who seem to be doing just the opposite..

    Well done TA for a considered statement.

  6. Flower

    I would suggest that “righteousness” to these asset rich Pentecostal leaders means right standing with God = the “broad” church of the Liberal Party whose fervent religious bullies never flinch from an opportunity to send evolution backwards.

    The Court women are known for seeking “benign” spiritual enlightenment in their gullibility since former Premier of WA, Richard Court and his wife Jo sought enlightenment from the Japanese AUM cult. The West Australian ran an article in 1994 titled: “How the Courts Commit Mahikari,” thus:

    “Court’s office confirmed Mrs Court is a member (of Sukyo Mahikari). Here one must only assume that the Courts, too, have fallen victims to the shadowy demented figures cowardly hiding behind the glossy facade presented by Mahikari.”

    Perhaps we should ask Margaret Court to comment on the revelations provided by Professor of religious studies at the U of North Carolina (and former Pentecostal Christian) Bart Ehrman, who wrote that half of the New Testament is a forgery. “The Bible not only contains untruths of accidental mistakes. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies.”

    Tsk tsk Margaret Court. What say you? And do you have any peer-reviewed literature to substantiate your claim that marriage is between a man and woman, many who practise anal sex?

  7. david

    There is nothing normal about Ms Court…

  8. Crystal


    I go to the Australian Open every year. Where can I gat a nice little rainbow flag? Has to be better than that dumb kangaroo with the boxing gloves.

  9. Dogs breakfast

    I wonder what Dawn Fraser thinks about homosexuality and gay marriage.

    I’m surprised I haven’t read anything from her about it. She is the world leader in trading off some spurious sporting achievements to promote herself across any and every field of endeavour.

    Sorry, the story isn’t about her is it.

  10. AdamNeira

    Homosexuality is a result of traumatic conditioning in early childhood, i.e. Three and a half to eight y.o., most often repressed, and poor later life choices. There is no “gay gene”. Any community, city or nation that legalizes same sex marriage is cutting its own spiritual throat. Ancient Rome, Athens and Gomorrah were full of chic, urbane, intelligent, cultured people who thought they knew more than the Creator.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details