Second Aussie legend hands back award over Margaret Court furore

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
A third recipient of the Order of Australia has rebuffed the award in protest over Margaret Court's continued recognition by the committee. (Photo by GREG WOOD/AFP via Getty Images)
A third recipient of the Order of Australia has rebuffed the award in protest over Margaret Court's continued recognition by the committee. (Photo by GREG WOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

Famed Australian artist Peter Kingston has become the latest recipient of the Order of Australia to reject the award, in protest over the promotion of tennis great Margaret Court.

Court, whose record of 24 grand slam titles remains unbroken to this day by either male or female players, has become a beacon of controversy over her outspoken views on the LGBTI community.

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The 78-year-old has served as a pentecostal minister since retiring from professional tennis, and publicly argued against marriage equality, having once described homosexuality as an ‘abominable practice’.

Kingston became the third person to decline the award in protest over Court’s promotion to Companion of the Order of Australia - the highest honour a citizen can be bestowed.

His move followed that of Canberra-based doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo and journalism icon Kerry O’Brien, who both rejected their honours in protest over Court’s views.

“In these fragile times where we are all up against a pandemic of anxiety I find Margaret Court’s elevation to the highest order contrary to the premise the awards are given, that is to make our community a better place,” Mr Kingston told The Age.

“I’m returning this award because I believe the elevation of Margaret Court is contrary to the integrity and meaning of the award and her effort in amplifying divisive opinions has not made our community a better place and contradicts the objectives of the award.

“I’m not intending to undermine the efforts and immensely good works of the other people who have been recognised and not denigrate those who have been recognised but to highlight the need of people who have been marginalised by Court’s hurtful, damaging and divisive attitudes to the LGBTIQ + community.

“I couldn’t think of a better use of the award than to stand up to religious bigotry.”

Peter Kingston latest to rebuff Australia Day honour

Both Dr Soo and O’Brien cited similar reasoning for knocking back their own Australia Day honours over Court’s award.

It was revealed on Wednesday that Court was given the higher honour in part to make up for the gender imbalance among recipients.

Men’s tennis legend Rod Laver was earlier made a Companion of the Order of Australia, with organisers seeing fit to honour Australia’s leading women’s player in similar fashion.

O’Brien labelled Court’s views ‘deeply insensitive’ and argued her contributions to the marriage equality debate had only served to divide the country.

“Margaret Court was a great tennis player who thrilled most Australians in her tennis years including me, but her hurtful and divisive criticisms relating to the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ+ community are clearly repugnant to many Australians,” O'Brien wrote in a letter outlining why he was rejecting the award.

“I believe the decision to present her with this award was deeply insensitive and must undermine community respect for awards that were created to celebrate a true spirit of community, not divide it.”

Court said she hadn’t received an invitation for this year's Australian Open, and wouldn’t have accepted it anyway due to various factors.

“I'm not coming to the Australian Open. No, I wasn't invited,” Court said.

“With Coronavirus, we've been so busy with our community work. I haven't even thought about it.”

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