Former tennis great Margaret Court has welcomed the decision to promote her to the highest level of the Order of Australia, after the decision came under fire from two state premiers and LGBT groups concerned about her past criticisms of same sex marriage.

Earlier today it was revealed Ms Court is set to be promoted from an Officer of the Order of Australia, to a Companion.

The information was embargoed but was tweeted by a freelance journalist, and then put to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference.

Speaking to the ABC, Ms Court said the early announcement of the honours was “sad” and was not fazed about the backlash.

Margaret Court, former tennis player and pastor of the Victory Life Centre, 2016
Ms Court will receive a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), which has sparked backlash due to her controversial views on the LGBT community.(Supplied: Chris Brown Photography)

“I’m not upset and I haven’t even read it,” she said.

“I am disappointed in the media that it was released because they’re not supposed to do that.”

State premiers speak out over award

Earlier today, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and WA Premier Mark McGowan said they did not support the honour being awarded to Ms Court.

Mr Andrews said he did not believe she had views that accorded with the vast majority of people in Australia.

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Daniel Andrews condemns Margaret Court’s inclusion in Australia Day honours list

Mr McGowan, from Ms Court’s home state, said he did not share her views on gay and lesbian people.

“I think extra Order of Australia awards should go to unsung heroes across the country and there’s a great many of them,” he said.

The 78-year-old, who is now a reverend in Perth, wrote an open letter in 2017 saying she would boycott Qantas over its support of same-sex marriage.

In 2013, Ms Court wrote a letter to the editor in a newspaper lamenting the birth of Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua’s child in a same-sex relationship.

“It is with sadness that I see that this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father,” Ms Court wrote.

‘I am not going to change my views’

Ms Court said today her views were based on her religious beliefs, and it was important for freedom of speech that she could share them.

“I am a minister of the Gospel, I have been a pastor for 30 years,” she said.

“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.

But she also said it was time for people to “move on”.

“I think it’s very sad people hold on to that and still want to bully, and I think it’s time to move on,” she said.

A woman holds a large trophy aloft under lights on a tennis court with a large number of spectators in the stands.
Margaret Court is set to be recognised with Australia’s highest honour on Australia Day.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

Ms Court said she was “honoured” to learn she would receive the award and wanted people to focus on her tennis achievements and her work off the court instead.

“I represented my nation, I always stand for my nation, and I love my nation,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone will ever take that away from me, and I just appreciate it so much.

Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon, 1971
Margaret Court playing doubles with Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon(Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

“I still represent my nation, I pray for my nation, I pray for the LGBT, I pray for the premiers in this nation and the Prime Minister,” she said.

“We pray for them, and so we’re here and we love our nation.”

When asked about the hurt her views on homosexuality may cause to LGBT people, Ms Court said she never turned people away.

“I have them come in here, I have them into community services from every different background, I never turn them away,” she said.

“And I was never really pointing the finger at them as an individual. I love all people, I have nothing against people, but I’m just saying what the bible says.”

The 78-year-old said she was disappointed about how her views had been portrayed in the media and feels she was singled out due to her “high profile”.

Ms Court did not wish to comment on what consequences she thought the journalist who leaked the information should receive, but said she “doesn’t have anything against him”.

Ms Court remains one of Australia’s greatest tennis players, holding a record 24 grand slam titles after being the first female to win Wimbledon in 1963.

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