Following years of controversy surrounding Margaret Court, the former tennis champion has found herself in hot water yet again, after a decision to elevate her Order of Australia honour to a Companion of the Order was leaked ahead of the ceremony on January 26.
For those unaware of the discourse against Court, the Pentecostal Church minister has previously been outspoken in her views against the LGBTQ+ community and marriage equality. And while her comments saw her receive significant criticism, she was still awarded with the nation’s highest honour for outstanding service and exceptional achievement.
However, earlier this week, there was widespread outrage when it was revealed that Court will be elevated to Companion of the Order of Australia in the 2021 ceremony.
Following the news, Canberra doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who received an Order of Australia Medal in 2016 for her work as a medical practitioner with the LGBTQ+ community and those with HIV, has announced that she plans to return her award in protest.
Dr. Soo, a transgender woman and long-time LGBTQ+ advocate, penned an article for the Sydney Morning Herald where she explains her choice to write to the Governor-General informing him that she’ll be returning the award in protest against Court’s recognition.
In a piece titled Why I handed back my Order of Australia, and why Margaret Court should be stripped of hers, Dr. Soo wrote:
“By giving this promotion to Mrs Margaret Court, the Council of the Order of Australia is sending a strong signal to distressed (LGBTQ+) youth that discrimination and prejudice against them is tolerated in our Australian community… I have spent a significant amount of my working life working with and advocating for disadvantaged communities in Australia.”
“There are very high suicide rates among transgender youth and one of the ways that we can reduce that is by affirming their gender choice and gender, and the statements and actions by someone like Margaret Court makes their life worse for them,” she said.
Dr. Soo continued to express her disappointment over how the Australian Government chooses to reward her for her past contribution to Australian tennis, while completely dismissing her recent and harmful comments, adding:
“[I] have both professional experience as well as lived experience of the communities that Mrs Margaret Court makes these derogatory and hurtful remarks about … I do not want to be seen as supporting the values that the Council for the Order of Australia seem to be supporting with this promotion of Mrs Margaret Court.”
“[This award] is condoning if not supporting the very negative and hurtful statements she has made about the LGBTIQ+ community over the past few years.”
On January 22, Court welcomed the Council for the Order of Australia’s decision and defended her past criticisms of same-sex marriage, claiming her views as being “religious freedom of speech”.
“I’m not going to change my opinions and views, and I think it’s very important for freedom of speech that we can say our beliefs,” she said.
And while the Australian Government is yet to comment on Dr. Soo’s request, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and opposition leader Anthony Albanese have both publicly declared that they don’t support the honour being awarded to Court.
“I do not support that. You know my views on a whole range of issues. I’m being honest with you, I do not support that,” Andrews admitted to the press.
“I don’t 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.” He continued, “I don’t believe she shares those views and I don’t believe she should be honoured because of that.”
Pointing out reasoning as to why Court was chosen for her Order Of Australia promotion, Albanese shared his opinion on the matter on his Twitter, stating:
“Margaret Court has already been honoured for her tennis prowess. She’s already an Officer of the Order of Australia. I think it’s clear for everyone to see that making her a Companion of the Order of Australia has nothing to do with tennis.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose not to address the division during his latest public address on January 22, citing the fact that the decision leaked before the ceremony that’s set to take place on Tuesday, January 26.
“I can’t comment on an award that’s done through an independent process that hasn’t been announced,” Morrison told reporters.
“This is a completely independent set of processes. It is an announcement that will be announced on that day. It is a system that recognises the full spectrum of individuals across this country.”