Politicians and activists have condemned the decision to award tennis star turned anti-LGBTIQ preacher Margaret Court a second Order of Australia.
Currently an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), Court is slated to receive the higher Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) award next week, ABC News has reported.
“Margaret Court has already received an Order of Australia for her contribution to tennis, so this second award rewards her only other major contribution to national life: opposing [LGBTIQ] equality and stirring up prejudice against us,” said activist group just.equal spokesperson Brian Greig.
“This reward for prejudice will only encourage further prejudice, discrimination, and division.”
Greig said the group also fears the award bodes the likely return in 2021 of the religious discrimination bill, for which Court has been a “poster girl”.
“The key issue here is that Mrs Court’s opposition to [LGBTIQ] equality and inclusion has caused deep harm and that harm should not be honoured,” he said.
Now a Pentecostal reverend in Perth, Court has publicly spoken against LGBTIQ people for decades.
In 2001, she campaigned against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
She has opposed laws ensuring equality and protecting LGBTIQ people from discrimination.
During the Australian debate for marriage equality, Court turned on trans people, including children, who she said were “influenced by the devil”.
Tennis Australia last year honoured her for her achievements in the sport but distanced itself from her homophobic and transphobic remarks, as other greats including John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova have called for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed.
The news of Court’s new honour has been welcomed by the Australian Christian Lobby, with Western Australian director Peter Abetz saying that the awards cannot be given solely to those with “politically correct views”.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said that he preferred not to “give any oxygen” to Court’s “disgraceful, hurtful” views that “cost lives” but stated that he disagreed with the Australia Day award.
“I do not believe that she has views that accord with the vast majority of people across our nation, that see people particularly from the [LGBTIQ] community as equal and deserving of dignity, respect, and safety,” said Andrews.
Equality Australia CEO Anna Brown, also an Order of Australia member, similarly criticised the decision and Court’s views.
“From one recipient to another, I hope that one day she sees Australia for the wonderful country that it is, and can be, when we recognise and value everyone who makes up our great nation equally,” said Brown.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to be drawn on the matter, which has yet to be officially announced ahead of Tuesday’s awards.
“I can’t comment on an award that is done through an independent process that hasn’t been announced or I have no official knowledge of those things,” said Morrison.