Voice for Equality: Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King is a tennis player from the United States. She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. King has been an advocate against sexism in sports and society. She is known for the "The Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men's singles champion. King is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis, which she founded with her former husband, Larry King. Learn more here.

She married Larry King in Long Beach, California on September 17, 1965. By 1968, King realized that she was actually a lesbian, and in 1971, she began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett. King acknowledged the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 "palimony" lawsuit filed by Barnett, making King the first prominent professional female athlete to come out as a lesbian. She was divorced from Larry King in 1987. Concerning the personal cost of concealing her sexuality for so many years, King has said:
I wanted to tell the truth, but my parents were homophobic and I was in the closet. In addition, I had people tell me that if I talked about what I was going through, it would be the end of the women's tour... I ended up with an eating disorder that came from trying to numb myself from my feelings. I needed to surrender far sooner than I did. At the age of 51, I was finally able to talk about it properly with my parents and no longer did I have to measure my words with them. That was a turning point for me as it meant I didn't have regrets any more.
On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for her work advocating for the rights of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community. "This is a chance for me — and for the United States of America — to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries," President Obama said.

Ms. King is a proud signer of Freedom to Marry's Marriage Resolution which reads:
Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual choice,
RESOLVED, the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.
Visit the Marriage Resolution page on our website and sign the Marriage Resolution today!

Freedom to Marry salutes Billie Jean King as a Voice for Equality! See other Voices for Equality here.

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