The devoutly Christian tennis legend Margaret Court, who takes a conservative view on gay marriage, has been denied renewal of her local club membership in Australia.
Court, who after retiring from tennis became a Pentecostal pastor, was removed from the membership roll by Cottesloe Tennis Club.
She had previously spoken out against same-sex marriage in respect of the national poll on the issue that kicked off this month. The results of the poll are expected mid-November.
She told West Australian: 'I think it's sad. You don't have the freedom of speech today to really defend yourself. It's a sad day for our nation when it comes to that.'
However, Ian Hutton, president of the club, said members had considered her availability to attend club events when she came up for re-election. It has also been reported that her views on gay marriage came up during the discussion.
Michael Roberts, chief executibe of Tennis West, said according to Christian Post: 'If you've got an opinion that's very polarising, when you're so firmly supportive or against something, then it's going to have an impact on how you're perceived in the community.
'Obviously, her opinions had played a part in it, there's no doubt about that. Cottesloe Tennis Club, whether they meant to or not, have made a bit of a social stand by making the decision.'
In the run-up to the vote on gay marriage, Court was quoted as saying: 'I sense at the moment you can put a Yes sign in the window, everything's all right, but if you put a No sign you get a brick through your window. We already have 36,000 gay couples in this nation, that's not a lot of people when you think about the 25 million. They already have civil union.
'They want marriage because they want to destroy it.'
Her defenders include evangelist Franklin Graham, who wrote on Facebook in June: 'Margaret is exactly right when she said, "No amount of legislation or political point-scoring can ever take out of the human heart the knowledge that in the beginning God created them male and female and provided each with a unique sexual function to bring forth new life." Sin is a choice, but God's Word is truth and never changes.'
As Christian Today reported, In the tennis world Margaret Court was described as 'dominating.' She had great athleticism combined with a fierce fitness regime. She won 64 Grand Slam titles (24 singles, 19 doubles, 21 mixed doubles), a record for any male or female player.
US tennis champion and great rival Billie Jean King labeled Margaret 'the arm' because of her formidable reach. Her record included the 'boxed set' – singles, doubles and mixed doubles victories at all four major tennis championships.
In 1960 at the age of 17 she won her first Australian Open. This was the first of seven consecutive Australian titles. Court won the Australian Open 11 times from 12 finals. Across her breathtaking amateur and professional career she registered a 1,180-107 win-loss ratio.
She was influenced by prominent US preacher Fred Price and graduated from Bible College in 1983. She went on to found Victory Life Centre, described as 'a church with a purpose' founded on The Bible as 'the inspired, authoritative, infallible Word of God.'