SBS Radio News
The SBS MP3 Player requires the Adobe Flash 8 Plugin. You can get Flash from here...
Radio News Bulletin
Gay marriage row hits tennis Court
12 January 2012, 17:11 PM | Source: SBS, Lisa Zilberpriver
Which is why it's surprising that what should have been a pleasant display of rainbow flags at a tennis match turned into a bitter Twitter blow-out.
For those as un-tennis-initiated as I was until I noticed 'Court' trending ferociously in Australia, it began with a Facebook page urging supporters of the LGBTI community to bring rainbow flags to the Australian (tennis) Open in Melbourne.
The gathering (the Facebook page founders already corrected one reporter who labelled it a protest) was to be held at the Margaret Court Arena where the Open was to be ... opened, on January the 16th.
That was apropos some comments she made in December last year (told you 2011 was crap and is better forgotten) to the West Australian newspaper known as the West Australian.
"They are not perfect, often dysfunctional and despite the fact the role models may be distorted and even severely flawed, there is no reason to put forward alternative, unhealthy, unnatural unions as some form of substitute," she told the paper.
"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."
The West Australian got wind of the Facebook plans and presumably asked Margaret how she felt about them, and she said that they weren't going to deter her. So, not really a story right? Sigh.
The West (as it's also known, sometimes) titled that article "Court not deterred by threat of gay protest," and opened it thusly:
"Tennis champion and WA church pastor Margaret Court will have to face angry demonstrators who plan to protest against her opposition to gay marriage in the arena named in her honour at the Australian Open next week.
Yes, they're terrifying, those angry, threatening, fluttering rainbow flags!
A woman with nerve strong enough to win 62 grand slams, AND tell Martina Massively-Powerful Navratilova her views straight to her face (so she says in the aforementioned Reuters interview) will be fine with some flags.
It's not the first time Court's had to defend her views this season - the issue's been lobbed back and forth (a pun!) - even across the Pacific. There was this New York Times blog from last week, during the Hopman Cup, an article in the Independent, an interview with Reuters (quoted by everyone), and the ABC and the SMH have filed on it. It's even made it to Mexico.
But this time it was too much for Tennis Australia and they issued a statement, albeit a mildly confused one:
"[Margaret Court]'s personal views are her own, and are definitely not shared by Tennis Australia.
"Like the WTA (**stands for World Tennis Association, is my guess), we believe that everyone should be treated equally and fairly. We concur wholeheartedly with the WTA who stated that “all human beings, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or otherwise, should be treated equally.
This is a fundamental right and principle, including within the world of sport. Anyone advocating otherwise is advocating against fundamental and essential rights.”
TA does not support any view that contravenes these basic human rights."
Wa wa wee wa!
Did Tennis Australia just say marriage is a right of the inalienable human kind, and denying it to homosexual people was a violation? If they did, I'm totally taking up tennis! Maybe they could make high-speed Internet access an inalienable right too!
Alas, it probably wasn't what they meant.
A tweeter called @CanberraMark - allegedly 'just a dad in Canberra' - called them on it - in a sane way:
"When has Margaret Court said anything against 'fundamental and essential rights' - stop twisting words #poorform!", he asked @tennisaustralia.
... But then he went all grandiose and huffy, calling for a boycott on the WHOLE Australian Open over its 'weak-kneed response'.
His hashtag, #boycottAO hadn't accrued any tweets at the time of writing, but you never know how far a little bit of hatin' can spread - just look at all this over some colourful flags at the tennis.
But CanberraMark wasn't the only one guilty of proffering bombastic solutions.
A tweeter from the other side of the argument (an avoided pun!) called on TA to remove Margaret's name from the Margaret Court Arena, and others with CAPSLOCK issues posted words that don't need replicating here.
There was this piece of sweet, humourous genius:
"Margaret Court must hate that both players start at love-all."
"The same people who probably want Margaret Court to have her views heard widely have also said 'Sharia creep' at least one a week."
It's an attempt to link bigoted views on homosexuality to bigoted views on Islam, but paradoxical given the freedom-of-speech records in many Sharia countries - especially women's freedom of speech.
Court seems perfectly able to defend herself and her views, and there's no need for anyone that enjoys tennis to miss the Open (it's kind of a big deal), whether they support gay marriage or not.
A blog called Hoyden About Town framed the debate rather nicely:
"It’s the old story – freedom of speech in “the public square” does not guarantee freedom from criticism ... ' the blog said.
"It’s also quite rich for somebody like Court, who stands up at an actual pulpit every week, freely expressing her opinion to a receptive audience, to accuse others of not “allowing” her to speak elsewhere, when all the protest involves is marriage equality activists and allies waving rainbow flags in the tennis arena named after her."
I'm down with gay marriage, and I'm down with freedom of speech, but I'm NOT down with unnecessary fist-waving and escalating - in this case perpetrated partly by the media and partly by other commentators online. It gets no-one anywhere.
Neither Court nor the Rainbow Wavers are to blame for the vitriol levels this has reached, so let's keep debating, but perhaps we can we all just do it peacefully, say, at a tennis match, over a civilised flute of champers as the flags flutter in the breeze?