A Canberra doctor has handed back her Order of Australia Medal in protest against Margaret Court receiving an Australia Day honour.
Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a transgender woman and LGBTIQ advocate, said awarding Mrs Court a Companion of the Order of Australia was a promotion of “discrimination and prejudice”.
Dr Soo, who was one of the first GPs to undergo gender transition in Australia, received an Order of Australia medal in 2016.
In a letter to the Governor-General, she said she could not be seen to support the 24-time grand slam winner, who is being recognised for her tennis achievements but has controversial comments on homosexuality, conversion therapy, same-sex marriage and transgender people.
“I therefore have both professional experience as well as lived experience of the communities that Mrs Margaret Court makes these derogatory and hurtful remarks about,” she wrote.
“Given the message that the Council for the Order of Australia is sending by giving this promotion to Mrs Margaret Court, I would like to return my OAM.
“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.”
Ivan Hinton-Teoh, spokesman for national LGBTIQ lobby group Just Equal, said Dr Soo had taken the right stand.
“We urge the Council of the Order of Australia to reconsider its decision,” Mr Hinton-Teoh said.
“Margaret Court’s primary contribution to Australian society since being awarded an AO for her historic tennis achievements has been to marginalise and malign LGBTIQ Australians. Either the council was not aware of the damage and division she has actively contributed to, or they are and they are supporting it.
“Margaret Court’s elevation, above her many previous awards, must sit uncomfortably with many people who have exemplified the best of Australian values throughout their lives and sought to advance all Australians.
“If the council does not review this decision there will be many distinguished Australians reconsidering their association with an awards system that further elevates the divisive efforts of Margaret Court.”
Dr Soo’s stunning move comes days after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews slammed the decision to honour Mrs Court, saying he didn’t want to give her “disgraceful, bigoted views any oxygen”.
“But when others insist on rewarding them with this country’s highest honour — I think it’s worth saying again,” Mr Andrews said.
“Grand Slam wins don’t give you some right to spew hatred and create division. Nothing does.”
Court’s sister, June Shanahan, defended the tennis champion on radio on Saturday morning.
“She does Australia proud with her tennis and she worked hard to get where she got to,” she told 2GB.
“These people that criticise her, especially the Premier of Victoria … I was disgusted with what he said.”
Mrs Shanahan said people shouldn’t believe what they read about Court.
“It’s not as bad as what some people have made it out to be,” she said. “She’s a good woman and she helps a lot of people.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese also questioned why Mrs Court was being recognised.
“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,” he said.