A Canberra LGBTIQ+ advocate has called on the Council for the Order of Australia to review its award process, saying elevating Margaret Court to the highest honour didn't reflect a modern Australia.
Medal of the Order of Australia recipient and co-founder of Just Equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh is considering joining Canberra doctor, Clara Tuck Meng Soo, in handing back his medal after it was leaked the former tennis star would be made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).
Last week, Dr Soo returned the Order of Australia medal she received in 2016 for her work with LGBTQI+ people and HIV positive people, upon hearing Ms Court would receive the highest Australia Day honour.
Ms Court was awarded an Order of Australia in 2007 in recognition of her contribution to tennis. The Pentecostal minister has come under fire in recent years for her public disparaging of same-sex relationships and transgender people and has been a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage.
Dr Soo, who is a transgender woman, said if she kept her award she would be "condoning the system" which led Ms Court to receive that honour.
"It's the one small thing I could do to actually draw attention to the fact I don't agree with this decision," she told the ABC.
"I am not denying Margaret Court's right to free speech, what I am protesting is rewarding someone for making those comments."
Mr Hinton-Teoh led the charge for marriage equality in the ACT and runs Just Equal promoting inclusion. He has launched a petition pushing to save Dr Soo's award but says he may also hand back his own medal, as the award no longer aligned with his values.
"We don't understand how we could be in this place, we don't understand how a free pass has been given to this esteemed Australian to be elevated given everything we know about her activities," he said.
"We should be at the point where our honours system includes vetting parameters... that recipients are inclusive, do support diversity, do support the elevation of all Australians.
"What we've discovered is the framework the council operates in is not representative of a modern, contemporary Australia."
Mr Hinton-Teoh, and many in the LGBTIQ+ community are looking to the Governor-General to respond to the widespread backlash which ensued on Friday.
"It really comes down to the way the council does assert their values, how the council validates this elevation," he said.
"There would have been so many other Australians that would have been holistically deserving of this award."
Dammit, Clara shouldn't want to return her medal. The Honours system should be one that celebrates phenomenal people like Clara, not have her find the Council doesn't share her values of inclusion & respect for all Aussies #BraveDrSoo— Ivan Hinton-Teoh OAM (@IvanHinton) January 24, 2021
Sign our petition:https://t.co/DnQxcEgN7E
The Just Equal petition has received almost 600 signatures so far.
"Australians cannot turn a blind eye to that conduct. We cannot ignore that it appears the Council seemingly appears to not celebrate inclusive Australian values," a statement on the Just Equal website reads.
"We do not want Clara's life of service to not be celebrated by the Australian Honours System."
Mr Hinton-Teoh has also penned an open letter, signed by more than 40 Australian Honours recipients calling on the Governor-General and Council of the Order of Australia to review the system to ensure "equity and inclusion are key values in determining recipients and so that worthy recipients like Dr Soo feel able to retain their honours."
In an interview with AAP this week, Ms Court - the winner of an unparalleled 24 grand slam singles titles - described the honour as a great privilege.
"All my life I've had those views and I was just saying what the Bible says," she said.
"I should always be able to say my views biblically, being a pastor and helping people with marriages and family. And I'll never change those views.
"I have nothing against people - I love the people. We have them come into our community services, all kinds - whether they're gay, transgender, whatever they are.
"We never turn a person away and I think it's been tried to be made out that I'm somebody that I'm not really. And I think that is very sad."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said compilation of the Honours List was an independent process.
- With AAP