Margaret Court is not the flag bearer of religious freedom that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and her supporters would have you believe. She is in fact, a champion of homophobia.
Elected to federal parliament in 1998, Brian Greig declared he was gay in his maiden speech. As an LGBTI rights activist in Western Australia over three decades, he has had a front-row seat to Margaret Court’s long campaign against the LGBTI communities.
The sole reason that the ACL champions Margaret Court is her adept reframing of homophobia as freedom of speech.
That reframing is the foundation and primary purpose of the Federal government’s Religious Freedom legislation: to sanction anti-LGBTI prejudice.
Margaret Court: victim or champion of homophobia?
Supporters claim victimhood for Margaret Court and describe her as ‘bullied’ as a consequence of her opposition to same-sex marriage in 2017. The ACL use her as an example of people of faith harassed and intimidated, and consequently silenced, for holding a different view. Thus, they claim, they require legislation to ‘protect them’.
They portray the Pentecostal pastor as ‘brave’ for ‘sticking to her beliefs’ and ‘exercising her freedom of speech’. The ACL also hold her up as the Poster-Girl for their religious freedom push.
However, all of this ignores the fact that Mrs Court’s opposition to equality is nothing new. This is simply the latest in a long line of attacks on LGBTI people, their families and their rights. Mrs Court’s attacks on LGBTI communities and individuals stretches back more than twenty years.
Margaret Court: 2001
In 2001, the West Australian state government moved to fully decriminalise homosexuality. They aimed to set an equal age of consent, introduce anti-discrimination laws for LGBTI people in employment, housing and the provision of goods and services, and recognise same-sex couples as de facto. The legislation also permitted lesbian access to IVF and adoption for same-sex couples.
Mrs Court campaigned staunchly against all of this; supporting jail terms for gays under 21 and ongoing discrimination in accommodation, jobs and services. Never mind marriage — Mrs Court opposed even de facto recognition, thus condoning continuing discrimination with Wills and Estates, property transfer, superannuation and medical decisions over a partner. Her opposition to parenting rights was especially shrill.
“Wanted — Your Teenage Son”
At the height of the campaign, the anti-LGBTI Australian Family Association, with Mrs Court as Patron, placed adverts in the West Australian.
“Wanted – Your Teenage Son,” they headlined the ad, which claimed the legislation would place boys at risk of sexual predation.
The Advertising Standards Bureau found the adverts breached its Code of Ethics.
“The material within the advertisement vilified homosexual people by its implication of an association between homosexuality and paedophilia.”
The newspaper then dumped the ads.
Margaret Court: 2004
In 2004, in Canberra’s Great Hall of Parliament House, Mrs Court addressed an audience gathered to oppose gay marriage.
“Children raised by same-sex couples suffer from shame and guilt,” she told them.
As the tennis champion who previously disparaged tennis as “full of lesbians”, Court also publicly criticised lesbian player Casey Dellacqua. She mocked Casey Dellacqua’s relationship and scolded her for “raising a child without a father.”
Separately, Mrs Court described transgender children as ‘influenced by the devil’. Advocates for the LGBTI communities, she claimed, ‘behave like Nazis’.
Despite all this, Mrs Court claims that it is she who is ‘persecuted’.
Margaret Court: champion of free speech?
Meanwhile, all of her inconvenient and venomous history of anti-LGBTI prejudice and hate speech is ignored. Mrs Court is reinvented as a champion of free speech.
If Mrs Court said, ‘tennis was full of Jews’, or that ‘children raised by interracial couples suffer from shame and guilt’, nobody would defend her right to free speech.
The mantra of ‘religious freedom’ only ever applies to those attacking the rights and freedom of LGBTI people — no one else. It’s not about protecting people’s religious beliefs. It is about privileging that belief above other rights and to the exclusion of the usual anti-discrimination laws.
Most especially, the Religious Freedom legislation, drafted at the behest of the No Campaign, aims to quarantine homophobia from the protections afforded racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and the like.
There are reasonable laws in Australia preventing discrimination on grounds of race and sex. However, the Religious Freedom Bill quarantines anti-LGBTI discrimination and homophobic hate speech from the social opprobrium that apply to racism, for example, and permits it.
This Bill says you can use any Holy text as an excuse to justify statements of religious belief, even if it offends, insults or humiliates other people. And while this means all minorities can be targets, we all know the primary target by the architects of this Bill is THE GAYS.
Mrs Court is not a champion of religious freedom. Indeed, she is merely a champion of homophobia. Mrs Court launders anti-LGBTI prejudice in the soapy suds of religion and turns it into freedom of speech.
This neat little trick comes straight from the political handbook of the American Religious Right, imported into Australia by the ACL. It must be exposed for what it is.
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