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Margaret Court declares she has no intention to hand back Australia Day honour

Margaret Court has declared she will not give back her Companion to the Order of Australia award - saying the honour was for her tennis career and was 'a long time coming'. 

The 78-year-old, who holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles ever won, is now a church pastor and received the country's top honour on Tuesday in the Australia Day awards. 

The award stirred controversy due to her views regarding the LGBTQI community and her opposition to same-sex marriage - which Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday called 'disgraceful' and 'hurtful'. 

Tennis legend Margaret Court (pictured) has said she will not return her Australia Day award

Kery O'Brien (pictured), a legendary ABC reporter with more than 50 years' experience, was to be appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia but refused over Court's recognition 

Mrs Court insisted she does not 'hate anybody' and 'loves' gay and transgender people and that the award was strictly in recognition of her sporting achievements. 

Mrs Court was asked on Melbourne radio station 3AW if she would return the award.

'No, because I loved representing my nation. When I got my AO (Officer of the Order of Australia) it was for my community outreach area, where we put out 75 tonnes of food a week.

'This was for my tennis and it was a long time coming and I'm very honoured ... We did nothing but play for our nation.'

Respected broadcaster Kerry O'Brien rejected his Australia Day award in protest at the 'insensitive' decision to honour Court, while LGBTQI advocate Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo said she would hand back the medal she received in 2016. 

'I do not support it,' Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday. 

'I do not believe she has views that accord with the vast majority of people across our nation, that see people particularly from the LGBTQI community as equal and deserving of dignity, respect and safety'. 

Court has attracted controversy over her stance on sexuality and support of gay conversion therapy, drawing condemnation for saying 'tennis is full of lesbians' and saying in a church sermon that gender was determined by God and that attempts to change it were the work of 'the devil, it's not of God'.

Tennis legend Margret Court has said Daniel Andrews (pictured) is 'so far left' he's out of touch

Court - the winner of an unparalleled 24 grand slam singles titles - described the honour as a great privilege

'I don't hate anybody, I love people and I love gay people and transgender people. We get them into our community services, we never turn anybody away,' she said.

'I can be bullied, I've been bullied a lot in the last few years and I don't mind, that's all right.

'But if I say anything, then I'm a bigot and I'm everything else and I don't like that and the press has caused a lot of that.' 

She also spoke of her views against abortion - saying that full-term abortions were allowed in Australia but 'a week later after a baby is born and you would go to prison'. 

Margaret Court (pictured in the 1960s) is Australia's greatest tennis player of all time

Clara Tuck Meng Soo (pictured, left) says the decision to award Australia's highest honour to the outspoken tennis great 'promotes discrimination' to LGBTQ people

In Victoria medical abortions are legal up to 24 weeks - but after this they can also be accessed if two medical professionals agree it is appropriate. 

Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles has stood since 1973. Serena Williams, one behind on 23, will make her latest attempt to equal Court at next month's Australian Open.

Court said she would not be heading to Melbourne Park this year, where one of the show courts is named after her.

'No, I wasn't invited,' she said. 'With coronavirus, we've been so busy with our community work. I haven't even thought about it.' 

Controversial tennis great Margaret Court plans to keep her Australia Day award

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