For a tennis player, especially alegend, to have the last name of Court, is pretty remarkable. What has become, sadly, even more legendary about Margaret Court are her vitriolic remarks against gay people and her stance against same-sex marriage.
Court, who acquired her last name through marriage, hails from Australia. Although she won a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles decades ago, nearly half were won at the Australian Open, in her day — it was usually held around Christmas — far and away the Grand Slam tournament with the weakest field. The tournament, now one of the most popular events on the tennis calendar (and held in mid-January) turned itself around. Margaret, a critic of homosexuality for decades, never did.
Court became a Christian pastor in her second career. Recently, in a letter published in The West Australian newspaper, she wrote that she would stop flying Qantas “where possible” because the Australian airline “has become an active promoter for same-sex marriage.”
Soon after, she offered a few more volleys for Sky News: “God made man for woman and woman for man to go and multiply the earth.” “Well you know two men can’t multiply and two women can’t.”
The center of the universe for women and men on the professional tennis tour is right now in Paris, and many players, including fellow West Australian Casey Dellacqua, have stated that they have put up long enough with Court’s passing shots.
After Martina Navratilova, a young rival during Margaret’s final years on the tour in the ’70s, won her last Wimbledon, Court said Martina was not a good role model due to her sexual orientation.
In another interview Court called homosexuality “a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.”
Dellacqua experienced both Margarets: the tennis player who practiced with her on the court, and the preacher who blasted her off it.
Dellacqua has two children with her female partner. After the birth of their son four years ago, Court wrote a public letter lamenting that “this child has been deprived of his father. … I simply want to champion the rights of the family over the rights of the individual to engineer social norms and produce children into their relationships.”
Dellacqua did not respond at the time. Yesterday, she had had enough.
“I’m very conscious of the fact that everyone is allowed their opinion, but when you start singling out my family especially, that’s when it’s not OK.”
For me, marriage is all about two individuals committing to one another in life, for life, through thick and thin. That commitment, whether between two women, two men, or a woman and a man, goes a long way in providing a healthy environment for raising children.
“Tennis is full of lesbians,” Margaret Court has said often when complaining about women’s tennis.
Although Margaret is certainly free to express her opinions, she chooses to ignore a great deal.
In her day, Margaret’s playing style was considered very “masculine.” She was tall and lifted weights. Her style on the court was a relentless serve and volley attack. Generally, though, she was praised for bringing more athleticism to the game rather than mocked or worse as Navratilova was in the ’80s. Double standard, anyone?
Many of Margaret’s doubles trophies were won with partners who are gay. Her most famous rival, Billie Jean King, now a gay activist, put everything on the line to establish the women’s professional tennis circuit from which Margaret profited. During the early years when the women’s tour was struggling, Margaret played it safe until national tennis federations finally approved the Women’s Tennis Association founded by Billie Jean.
Many players are considering proposing to Tennis Australia that Margaret’s name be stripped from the stadium bearing her name on the Australian Open grounds.
The United States National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open, was named in Billie Jean’s honor. Billie Jean received standing ovations. Courage is rewarded — and lasting.