This year, it’s not just tennis fans who are following the season’s first major tournament, The Australian Open, with great interest. Members of the LGBT community who don’t otherwise love tennis (why not? you should!) are also peering in.
That’s because Australian former player Margaret Court has seen fit to unleash a series of starkly homophobic comments recently. Most of the controversy has surrounded her rote Biblical position on same-sex marriages — a position that’s hardly startling given that she’s pastor and founder of something called Perth’s Victory Life Church. And the church’s positions, and Court, state selectively fundamentalist positions. Here’s Court holding forth in one of her blog posts from last year:
The bible is a living book; it is our TV guide to life and how to have a successful marriage and how to raise a family. It also says that homosexuality, adultery, fornification, is an abomination.
She’s trying to have it both ways. If the (curiously uncapitalized) bible is a “living book” and a “TV guide” (how’s that for cheese?), then its prescriptions need to be translated into terms that make sense for the now. But the terms of engagement switch from the first to the second sentence, where she digs up certain biblical proscriptions she agrees with while conveniently ignoring all the other things the bible calls “abominations” as well as the many, many statements in the bible about the subordinate role of women that she knows better than to dare quote.
Why am I bothering to engage in this analysis? Because it’s clear that Court’s position on same-sex marriage isn’t compelled by the bible; rather, she justifies her tsk-tsking by a conveniently selective reading of it. And that reading is then used as part of a broader, homophobic agenda. Proof comes from the quote she gave to The West Australian newspaper last month:
“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.”
Translation: Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transpeople should have stayed in the closet. So while not everyone who opposes marriage equality is a homophobe (even though they’re wrong on the merits), Court and many others are. Stated opposition to full equality is really just a shorthand for their nostalgia for the good old days when we didn’t exist — at least not as a force that had to be dealt with. Like too many others, Court hides behind selective biblical injunction to justify her nakedly secular bigotry.
Of course, part of the strategy is to couple the wounding, negating of LGBT lives by then sanctimoniously proclaiming love for us. Thus it followed that, when trailblazers Martina Navratilova (whose comments suggested she understands the idea of a fully living bible, not one that lurches into life at the convenience of the interpreter) and Billie Jean King called her out, she responded with a clueless, if not insincere, statement that she “actually love[s] homosexual people.” Funny way of showing it.
Things are about to get interesting Down Under, as a Facebook group calling itself “Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena” plans, as their name suggests, to show up wearing rainbow colors or bearing flags. (Or, as the hysterical Herald-Sun put it, “to storm” the event and to “inundate” the stadium.) So of course Court, in a table-turning attempt that’s sickeningly familiar to LGBT advocates, is now casting herself as the victim, accusing the protesters of trying to drive her away or silence her:
It is hard that they can voice their opinions but I am not allowed to voice my opinion.
What on earth is she talking about? She did voice her opinion, and, as far as I know, she’s not been silenced or imprisoned, or in any way not “allowed” to speak. Even in the article from which the quote is taken, she reaffirms her position.
Here’s another take, Ms. Court: They’re planning a respectful protest that attempts to reassert their humanity and equality in the face of your call that we be walled back into the closet. Here’s what the Facebook page organizers suggest, oh-so-politely:
Let’s ensure that we promote our objectives by simply carrying/wearing our rainbow colors. In order to positively communicate our message, I implore everyone to let your colors do the talking. The presence of the gay community and our straight supporters will illuminate Margaret Court with every color in the prism. Please represent our community with the courage of visible, but quiet, resolution and be a role model for our gay youth.
But it’s more usefully incendiary to cast us as radicals, so Court obliges.
Until a few years ago, there was a stadium at the Australian Open called Vodafone Arena. Tennis Australia must change the name of “Margaret Court Arena”; until then, players assigned to that venue will be playing at the “Homophobe Arena.” And for now, Tennis Australia should honor the requests of any players — gay and straight alike — who request a move to a different stadium. It’s the least they can do.
Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.
He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.
John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.
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