King respects Court despite remarks

King respects Court despite remarks

Published Jan. 17, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

Twelve-time grand slam champion Billie Jean King said Tuesday that while she was adamantly opposed to Australian tennis legend Margaret Court's views on homosexuality and gay marriage, she still had great respect for her former opponent.

Court, who won a record 24 grand slam singles titles and is now a senior pastor at Perth's Victory Life Centre church, spoke out against gay marriage last month, prompting an angry response in Australia.

"Politically correct education has masterfully escorted homosexuality out from behind closed doors, into the community openly and now is aggressively demanding marriage rights that is not theirs to take," Court said.

Speaking with The Desert Sun on Tuesday, King -- a longtime proponent of equal rights -- said, "I totally respect her opinion, but I don't agree with her at all. We have a rising problem with homophobia globally.


"This is about civil rights. It's about equality, having equal opportunities and rights. Everyone gets too wigged out on it. I guess because it's sexual, people get funny. But it's just about equal rights."

Court's views on homosexuality, which she has publicly held for more than 20 years, prompted gay activists to launch a "Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena" Facebook site urging people to display gay pride colors at the stadium court named after her during this week's Australian Open.

Brit 17-year-old Laura Robson garnered attention when she wore a rainbow scrunchie on her ponytail in her first-round loss to Jelena Jankovic on Monday in support of equal rights, but denied it had anything to do with a protest against Court.

"I didn't see anything about a protest. I wore it because I believe in equal rights for everyone. That's it," said Robson. "It's not a protest, it's just a hairband."

King said calls to have Court's name removed from the No. 3 showcourt were over the top.

"No, no, no, get rid of her for that? Because you don't agree with her? Are you kidding? Just because you don't agree with someone? Please. She deserves it. She's a great player," King said.

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