Journalist Kerry O'Brien has refused his Order of Australia award in protest of controversial former tennis great Margaret Court receiving the highest honour.
Veteran journalist Kerry O'Brien has rejected his Australia Day award to make a stand against controversial tennis great Margaret Court receiving the highest honour.
Court is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights, using the Bible to justify her stance.
News of her appointment as Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia leaked before the official announcement on Monday evening, prompting outrage and Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo handed back her own award in protest.
After hearing about Court's award O'Brien decided to stand with Dr Soo.
"The decision to award Australia's highest (civilian) honour to Margaret Court may serve to erode the hard-fought gains made over decades in reducing the impact of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community - discrimination that has caused immense pain to untold people and destroyed lives," O'Brien told the awards council in an email seen by AAP.
He says Dr Soo epitomises the true spirit of the awards.
"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 said.
"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."
Dr Soo received her award in 2016 for work in Canberra as a medical practitioner with the LGBTIQ community, people with HIV and drug dependencies.
She was one of the first GPs to undergo gender transition in Australia.
When returning her award, Dr Soo told the governor-general that by promoting Court the council was telling LGBTIQ youth that discrimination and prejudice against them was tolerated in the Australian community.
O'Brien acknowledged there were many people involved in the awards process who meant well.
"But there has to be something fundamentally wrong with a system that can produce such a deeply insensitive and divisive decision."
Anyone can nominate Australians for the Australia Day honours awards, with a council reviewing them before the governor-general gives the final tick of approval.
Court, who is now a pastor, says she will never change her views but loves all people.
"We have them come into our community services, all kinds - whether they're gay, transgender, whatever they are," she told AAP.
"We never turn a person away and I think it's been tried to be made out that I'm somebody that I'm not really. And I think that is very sad."
O'Brien's gong was to have been awarded for distinguished service to broadcast media and to journalism, as a current affairs television presenter, interviewer and reporter.
His career spanned close to 50 years, including more than 15 at the ABC's 7.30 Report, as well as at the national broadcaster's Four Corners and Lateline programs.
Prior to learning about Court's award, O'Brien said he initially felt coy about his own, but was glad to see journalism valued and acknowledged at a time when it's under sustained attack.
He planned to use the platform to promote the importance of the ABC and public interest journalism for democracy.