Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Tennis, 1993. While she came out of the closet a decade earlier, it was 1993 that a marriage between the tennis legend and the gay community was finally consummated. Throughout 1992 Martina had spoken at length against Colorado's Amendment 2, which stripped gay people of their rights. A resident of Aspen, Martina was a plaintiff in the court case to overturn it. But it was that March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in 1993, just months after Bill Clinton created 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' that captured her imagination and catapulted her activism for the community.
Soon after the march Martina turned her attention to the creation of the Rainbow Card, which helped funnel money to non-profit gay-rights groups. Martina said her participation in the march led directly to her involvement with the Rainbow Card, which has raised over $2 million for LGBT non-profits:
Inspired by the incredible strength and solidarity I witnessed during my participation at the 1993 March on Washington, I wanted to find a way to harness the economic power of the LGBT community and really make a difference. Two years later, my friends and I launched the Rainbow Credit Card Program. In essence, we created a fund raising tool that enables individuals to contribute to the LGBT community through the simple act of using a credit card.
Her appearance at the march also had an effect on the community at large. Almost 20 years ago sports were still unattainable in the minds of many in the LGB community (back then the 'T' hadn't yet been adopted). To have one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century speak at this event alongside RuPaul and Melissa Etheridge was an eye-opener and a great source of pride for the community.
Martina spoke again seven years later at the Millennium March on Washington for Equality.
For more information:
- Wikipedia page for the March on Washington
- Martina's work with the Rainbow Card
- Martina's fight against Amendment 2