Tennis legend Billie Jean King slams Ron DeSantis over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law: ‘He probably has gay kids in his family’

Tennis legend Billie Jean King wears a dark shirt and blue jacket as she stands on a tennis court

Tennis legend and queer icon Billie Jean King has lambasted Florida governor Ron DeSantis over the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, saying the Republican lawmaker “probably has gay kids in his family”.

The tennis star was in Florida for the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup on Friday (14 April), when she spoke out against the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law – which bars public schools from teaching about LGBTQ+ topics and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade – during a press conference. 

She also condemned DeSantis, who signed the anti-LGBTQ+ bill into law in March 2022 and has repeatedly attacked trans rights. 

King showed off her rainbow-coloured watch band and quipped: “We must be bothering him. I have my rainbow watch on today.”

She denounced the “sad” bill because she’s been “very big on inclusion” and wants others to feel they can be their authentic self, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

“If you heard my personal journey, which I thought I was straight, I realised later in life I wasn’t,” King shared. 

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“I had to figure out who am I, who is my authentic self. Going through that journey just for me personally, the important thing is to be welcoming to everyone.”

The tennis star was married to fellow tennis player Larry King for over two decades and was publicly outed in 1981 when Marilyn Barnett, a woman that she’d had been involved with while still married, filed a palimony lawsuit against her. 

When the news broke, King said her lawyer and press representative urged her not to admit the truth, but King refused. 

Tennis legend Billie Jean King waves a progressive Pride LGBTQ+ flag while sitting in chairs during a match
Billie Jean King, tennis legend and LGBTQ+ rights activist, said she wants everyone to feel they can be their authentic self. (Getty)

Instead, she acknowledged the relationship, and, in doing so, she became the first prominent female athlete to openly be part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Ron DeSantis’ latest push is to extend the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to include all grades, and Billie Jean King warned such a move would have horrific consequences on LGBTQ+ kids who might not be out to their family members, due to fear. 

“I have no control over what the governor is doing,” King said. “He probably has gay kids in his family. He’ll say he doesn’t probably, but I bet he does. Most people have gay relatives, even if they don’t know it.”

She continued: “I’m about inclusion. I think you should have different people on the (school) board. 

“Shouldn’t just be the people like you, that look like you, think like you. I think it’s important to have people who think differently. That’s how you really win. 

“You get great ideas from so many different sources in life. It’s really important to be open I think to people.”

DeSantis and other Republicans who support similar legislation say the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ measure protects children from so-called inappropriate content in schools. They also argue that parents, not educators, should be discussing topics like sexual orientation and gender with their kids. 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis wears a suit and tie as he gestures with one hand while speaking to people off camera
Florida governor Ron DeSantis wants to expand the state’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to include all grades in Florida public schools. (Getty)

But LGBTQ+ rights advocates and the Biden administration argue such bills marginalise queer youth as they come to terms with their identity

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called DeSantis’ plan to extend the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law “completely, utterly wrong”

“Make no mistake, this is part of a disturbing and dangerous trend we’re seeing across the country, of legislation that [is] anti-LGBTQI+, anti-trans, in a way we have not seen in some time,” Jean-Pierre said. 

“We’re talking about students, we’re talking about educators, we’re talking about individuals.” 

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