I'll say this for Margaret Court: She doesn't flinch.
Even as the howling winds of criticism lash her fore and aft, Ol' Maggie braces herself, grips a copy of the Holy Book in both her bony hands, and blows back, accusing her accusers of bullying and claiming to be the victim of persecution.
"I am a minister of the Gospel, I have been a pastor for 30 years," she harrumphed the other day, as the latest tempest raged in full gust in Australia. "I teach the Bible, what God says in the Bible and I think that is my right and my privilege to be able to bring that forth. 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. I think it's very sad people want to bully, and I think it's time to move on."
The tennis great is correct. Freedom of speech is a cherished right, not just in her native Australia but in North America.
Except Ol' Maggie's "freedom of speech" includes some of the most vile homophobic/transphobic language we've heard from a sporting legend, past or present. Among other things, she has said this about the gay collective:
There's a global gay agenda to brainwash the youth of the planet. "That's what Hitler did. That's what communism did—get in the minds of the children. There's a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children."
"LGBT in the schools—it's the work of the devil, it's not of God."
On marriage: "(Gays) want to destroy it. (Same-sex marriage) will affect Christian schools, it will affect freedom of speech. There will be no Mother's Day, there will be no Father's Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas."
When Aussie tennis player Casey Dellacqua and partner Amanda Judd celebrated the birth of their first child: "It is with sadness that I see this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father."
"Tennis is full of lesbians, because even when I was playing there was only a couple there, but those couple that led, that took young ones into parties and things. And you know, what you get at the top is often what you'll get right through that sport. We're there to help them overcome."
Homosexuality "is a choice."
There's more, but I'm sure you get the point — Ol' Maggie, a Pentecostal pastor, won't be officiating at a same-sex marriage anytime soon.
Yet now a group of 19 folks Down Under have chosen to ignore that volume of monstrous hot takes and, on Tuesday, bestowed upon the raging homophobe the highest hosanna in the Land of Oz, the Companion of the Order of Australia. It is an accolade reserved for those of "eminent achievement and merit in service to Australia or to humanity at large."
"The icing on the cake," the 78-year-old founder of the Victory Life Centre in Perth and holder of 24 tennis Grand Slam singles titles says of the honor.
Others see it more like pigeon poop.
Doctor Clara Tuck Meng Soo, for example, has returned the Order of Australia Medal she received in 2016 for work in the LGBT community and with HIV patients and those with drug dependencies, while noted journalist Kerry O'Brien has rejected his nomination for the award.
"The Council for the Order of Australia will be aware of the controversies about the many derogatory and very hurtful remarks that Court has made about the LGBTIQ+ community and its supporters over many years," Dr. Soo wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. "By giving this promotion to her now, the council is sending a strong signal that discrimination and prejudice are not only tolerated but honoured in our Australian community."
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was among numerous politicos to decry the Court appointment, describing her homophobic views as "disgraceful and hurtful." He went on to say, "Calling out bigotry is always important. This bigoted quackery costs lives."
That's the part of her fire-and-brimstone spewings that Ol' Maggie doesn't get. As much as she presumes to speak for, and protect, our youth, gay kids hear different messaging—that they're the product of the devil; that they shouldn't be allowed to wed the person of their choice; that Hitler's coming after them; that a girl liking a girl is a bad thing; that a trip to a head doctor will "cure" their gayness.
So they stay hidden in the closet and suffer in silence. Maybe they hurt themselves, or worse.
Margaret Court should understand one thing: She has the right to express her views, but she also has the right to remain silent. It's time she chose the latter.