|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Margaret Court, regarded as the greatest female tennis player in Australia and now a Pentecostal minister, has caused a furore with recent comments that gay marriage would legalise abominable sexual practices and gay people could be cured of their orientation.
As same-sex marriage continues to be a hot-button issue in Australia with legislative reform on the agenda, former Australia tennis champ and now a Pentecostal minister Margaret Court has stirred up a hornet's nest by expressing her opposition to same-sex marriage in the lead-up to the Australian Open that runs till Jan 28.
The West Australian in December quoted Court as asking Australians to make a stand against gay marriage, saying no human law could ever change God's divine laws.
Court’s words sparked the creation a Facebook group called "Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena," which is encouraging fans to display gay-pride banners and rainbow-coloured flags during matches although efforts have largely been unsuccesful to date. Since her December interview, some Australians have called for her name to be stripped from 6,000 seat arena at Melbourne Park.
Court, a 24-time Grand Slam singles champion and regarded as the greatest female tennis player in Australia, believes Australia needs to wake up as a nation to protect future generations.
"Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take," she said.
"No amount of legislation or political point-scoring can ever take out of the human heart the knowledge that in the beginning God created them male and female and provided each with a unique sexual function to bring forth new life. 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."
Currently, some states in Australia permit civil unions, while gay marriage is banned in the country as a whole.
Court was quoted as saying in The Australian that she had never felt hatred towards gay people and in fact helps gay people in her church "overcome" their homosexuality. "We have them in our church. I help them to overcome. We have people who have been homosexual who are now married.
In a December 2010 interview with The West Australian, Court stated her opposition to gay marriage.
"Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take," Court said. "The fact that the homosexual cry is, 'We can’t help it, as we were born this way,' as the cause behind their own personal choice is cause for concern."
Court has had a history of anti-gay comments, accusing lesbians of ruining women’s tennis and calling Martina Navratilova a bad example to young players.
Navratilova, along with openly gay tennis great Billie Jean King, have condemned Court’s latest comments. "Seems to me a lot of people have evolved as has the Bible. Unfortunately, Margaret Court has not," Navratilova told TennisChannel.com. "Her myopic view is truly frightening as well as damaging to the thousands of children already living in same-gender families. I have tried to talk to Margaret but to say she’s completely close-minded on the issue is an understatement."
Columnist Andie Noonan, wrote in the Sydney Star Observer, a LGBT newspaper, that Court’s pro-conversion stance more so than her anti-gay-marriage remarks should cause greater concern.
"It is one thing to oppose gay marriage, but quite another to quash the integral part of a person that makes them human – their ability to love.
"Conversion or ‘reparative’ therapy, as it’s known, can be disturbingly damaging. It is the ultimate rejection of a person’s sense of self and usually involves desperately vulnerable people, convinced they’re an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, simply for being who they are. It is an outdated practice whose heart lies in hate."
Earlier this month, Exodus International leader Alan Chambers finally admitted that reparative therapy is 99.9 percent ineffective and that the overwhelming majority of those who had undergone "ex-gay" therapy had not changed their sexual orientation.
He said: "The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction. I think that there is a gender issue there. There are some women who have challenged me and said, 'Well that – my orientation or my attractions have changed completely.' Those have been few and far between. The vast majority of people that I know do still experience some level of same-sex attraction."