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Former ABC TV star Kerry O’Brien turns down his Australia Day award in protest against Margaret Court

Veteran television journalist Kerry O’Brien has turned down a prestigious Australia Day award in solidarity with the LGBTQI community.

Critics piled the ceremony after it was announced that the controversial former tennis great Margaret Court would be one of only four people to receive the country’s highest honor in 2021 and become a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Among the 845 recipients in 2021, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Jewish community leader Dr. John Levi and mathematician Cheryl Praeger will also receive the highest honors in the country.

O’Brien, a legendary ABC reporter with over 50 years of experience, would be made an Officer of the Order of Australia – the second highest honor.

He had already agreed to accept the award, but wrote to the Secretary of the Governor General on Sunday to notify him of his decision to withdraw his acceptance.

In the letter, O’Brien reportedly quoted the Court’s “ hurtful and divisive criticism of the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ + community. ” The Guardian reported.

O'Brien (pictured), a legendary ABC reporter with over 50 years of experience, would be made an Officer of the Order of Australia - second highest honor

O’Brien (pictured), a legendary ABC reporter with over 50 years of experience, would be made an Officer of the Order of Australia – second highest honor

He had already agreed to accept the award, but wrote to the Secretary of the Governor General on Sunday to inquire of his decision to revoke his acceptance after learning that Margaret Court (pictured) would also be recognized.

He had already agreed to accept the award, but wrote to the Secretary of the Governor General on Sunday to inquire of his decision to revoke his acceptance after learning that Margaret Court (pictured) would also be recognized.

He had already agreed to accept the award, but wrote to the Secretary of the Governor General on Sunday to inquire of his decision to revoke his acceptance after learning that Margaret Court (pictured) would also be recognized.

He said her views were “repugnant to many Australians” and that he would refuse the award out of solidarity with transgender physician Clara Tuck Meng Soo, who presented her own award last week to protest the Court’s nomination.

Despite his decision, O’Brien accepted that “there are many well-intentioned people involved in the Order of Australia process” and regretted having to reverse his acceptance.

Court received the highest gong ‘for outstanding service to tennis as an internationally acclaimed player and record-holding grand slam champion, and as a mentor to young athletes’.

But O’Brien said the decision “would serve to undermine the hard-won gains made in recent decades in reducing the impact of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ + community.”

“I believe the decision to present her with this award was very insensitive and should undermine the community’s respect for awards made to celebrate a true sense of community, not to distribute it,” he added.

Instead, he argued that Dr Soo “embodies the true spirit of the Order of Australia.”

Clara Tuck Meng Soo (pictured, left) says decision to award Australia's highest honor to outspoken tennis greatness 'promotes discrimination' among LGBTQ people

Clara Tuck Meng Soo (pictured, left) says decision to award Australia's highest honor to outspoken tennis greatness 'promotes discrimination' among LGBTQ people

Clara Tuck Meng Soo (pictured, left) says decision to award Australia’s highest honor to outspoken tennis greatness ‘promotes discrimination’ among LGBTQ people

Kerry O'Brien is the latest to hand in his Order of Australia medal in protest of the revelations Margaret Court (pictured) will receive the country's highest award on Australia Day honors list

Kerry O'Brien is the latest to hand in his Order of Australia medal in protest of the revelations Margaret Court (pictured) will receive the country's highest award on Australia Day honors list

Kerry O’Brien is the latest to hand in his Order of Australia medal in protest of the revelations Margaret Court (pictured) will receive the country’s highest award on Australia Day honors list

Dr Soo received an Order of Australia Medal in 2016 for her work as a physician for the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV.

A statement from Just Equal identified her as one of the first GPs to undergo a gender transition in Australia.

“I have spent a significant portion of my working life working with and advocating for disadvantaged communities in Australia,” said Dr. Soo.

I may also add that I spent most of my adult life as a gay man before my sex transition to a woman in 2018.

“That is why I have both professional and lived experience in the communities about which Mrs. Margaret Court makes these derogatory and hurtful remarks.”

Dr Soo received an Order of Australia Medal in 2016 for her work as a physician in the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV

Dr Soo received an Order of Australia Medal in 2016 for her work as a physician in the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV

Dr Soo received an Order of Australia Medal in 2016 for her work as a physician in the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV

Just Equal spokesman Ivan Hinton-Teoh urged the Council of the Order of Australia to reconsider his decision.

He said there would be “many prominent Australians” who would reconsider their association with the reward system in light of the honor.

Gai Waterhouse also becomes an officer in the general division for her impact on the horse racing industry and role model for young women.

Several other recipients were rewarded for their efforts during the 2019/2020 wildfire season.

Court – the winner of an unparalleled 24 grand slam singles titles – described the honor as a great privilege.

The 78-year-old is also a Pentecostal church that has come under fire in recent years for its public disparagement of gay relationships and transgender people.

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

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

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

“I’ve had those views all my life and I just said what the Bible says,” she said.

“I should always be able to express my views biblically, be a minister, and help people with marriages and families. And I will never change those views.

‘I have nothing against people – I love people. We’ve had them come into our community services, all kinds – be they gay, transgender, whatever they are.

‘We never send a person away and I think it has been tried to say that I am someone I am not really. And I find that very sad. ‘

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said compiling the Honors List was an independent process.

Federal Labor has questioned why Court received top honors when already recognized for her athletic prowess with a membership of the Order of Australia.

To access the full list of 2021 recipients, click here.

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