Is Martina Navratilova Actually Bad For Gay Rights?


Tennis star Martina Navratilova has arguably done more for gay visibility (aka “mainstreaming”) than any other athlete or celebrity — and did so at a time when it was particularly inconvenient. So how come she’s suddenly become one of the community’s biggest problems?

Billie Jean King has called Navratilova “the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.” She “won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including 9 consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon a record 9 times.” And most of that came after, in 1981, she came out publicly. Since then, she’s been a champion for gay rights, even filing a lawsuit in 1992 in Colorado to fight Amendment 2, which would’ve granted any town, city, or county from enacting anti-discrimination rules for gays.

So how come Navratilova might just be Public Enemy No. 1 to GLBTs right now?

Because she’s exploiting the current status of same-sex marriage for her own personal advantage.

Navratilova is in the middle of a messy (and growing even more so) divorce from Toni Layton. But in order to keep Layton’s hands off Navratilova’s fortune, the tennis star’s attorneys are arguing that their relationship doesn’t qualify as a marriage by heterosexual terms, and thus Layton shouldn’t be entitled to her share of things. Layton, naturally, sees things differently, and is filing a domestic partnership lawsuit in Florida, which Salon notes is a “deeply inhospitable legal climate” for gay-anything.

Close watchers of Navratilova will know this isn’t a new tactic: Back in 1991, ex-lover Judy Nelson sued her for $7.5 million, and even had videotapes of two of their wedding ceremonies to show a court. The pair settled out of court, reportedly for around $3 million.

For Navratilova, the issue is a personal and financial one, and she’s using any means necessary to get her way in court. This includes trivializing her relationship with Layton as being “sub-par” when compared to “true, traditional marriage,” even though the pair were together for nearly eight years. Layton maintains she was, out of the blue, kicked out of Navratilova’s life and even locked out of their homes — and insists the pair agreed to a 50/50 split of everything, which is why Layton wants parts of the four multimillion dollar estates, cars, and jewelry they purchased while together.

But for someone who proclaims to be such an advocate of gay rights, Navratilova is throwing the fight for same-sex marriage under the bus. By trying to hang on to her millions, she has (what we’re guessing is) the unintended effect of magnifying the triteness of gay relationships. That same-sex relationships are lesser than male-female relationships is Navratilova’s entire talking point.

As the pair wage war with legalese, it’s interesting to note Navratilova’s Wikipedia page has been scrubbed of any mention of Layton. The paragraphs about her commitment to gay rights, however, remain.

(Photo: Splash News)

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  • cphil

    Perhaps this isn’t as bad as you think. I’d be shocked if some otherwise unsupportive people won’t read about this and conclude that her partner does deserve some protections under the law.

  • M Shane

    Suprise? This is one kind of things that will happen with legalizing coupledom as marriage: you make our affectionate relations mostly a llegal rather than natural thing. Gay “marriages” will never be the same even if you try to make them look that way. It’ s a money grab for attorneys is mainly all it is, appart from beingh shame based. You’ll discover that the cat you grabed by the tail is a skunk.

  • j

    What a scumbag. Who needs enemies eh?

  • Kamikapse

    Who cares.. you would do that same in her position…

  • Topher

    While it is disappointing for Navritalova to be treating her ex this way, hopefully it will help make clear the reasons it is so important for gay marriage to be legalized. As long as gay couples exist in domestic partnership limbo there are many questions left unanswered, especially when it comes to ending the relationship. Who gets the kids? Who gets the property? Without all the rights AND responsibilities of marriage, we are likely to see too many stories like this one.

  • Random Gay Guy

    Dear Martina,
    For all I care, you can drag this fight out as long as you want to and get as dirty as you want. However, leave same-sex marriage out of your shrill little divorce.

  • bluprntguy

    This is shameful, but I think it is a benefit, not a negative for the GLBT community. It shows that these domestic partnership laws are lacking any benefit, and complicate issues. It shows that the current legal process is inadequate and discriminatory. I say, let there be more of these legal battles to show America what a frigging mess the current patchwork of laws really is.

  • Rebecca

    This looks like nothing more than a “traditional” divorce to me. Like the straights have a claim to messy divorce?
    Unfortunately it won’t be seen that way by those who oppose us.

  • Tony

    Yikes, wow, Martina, who is old even by lesbian standards is sending a message to any woman who may ever be interested her in the future, Martina is a self-serving see you next Tuesday.

    Oh, and she is sending a message to the LGBT Community, that LGBT equality is only important as long as Martina gets the lion’s share.

    What a b….

  • Chris

    You simply cannot deny a group access to the institution of marriage and then hold them accountable to marital law.

    Sorry, Heteros. You can’t have it both ways. (Leave that to us sexual perverts!)

    But we HAVE seen the ARSENAL of vile weapons that Heteros use against each other in THIER divorce cases, haven’t we.

    Who knew? Heterosexuals hold Homosexuals to a higher standard than they hold themselves.

    Now THAT certainly is something to chew on, isn’t it?

  • Fitz

    Well– come on. It’s a divorce. People don’t play nice during a divorce.

  • Jaroslaw

    Why didn’t she just have a prenuptial agreement? Did I spell that right? Someone here will let me know I’m sure!

    While Martina might be a tad on the selfish and greedy side, and, as noted divorces are often messy nasty things, this hardly makes her Gay Rights public enemy #1.

  • Fitz

    @Jaroslaw: Cuz when you are in new love you think with your heart. (or dick, or clit).

  • jarvisbearcub

    If it was a marriage, did she have the ceremony when it became legal in California? Or Iowa? If she didn’t do that, maybe it wasn’t a lifelong marriage. Maybe she, like numerous other rich celebs, was protecting her money from the start.

    She can’t hurt gay marriage by arguing she wasn’t in one if she WASN’T!

  • Duane

    They’re not married, they only had a commitment ceremony. Prior to 2003, the only places in the world gays could marry were Belgium and The Netherlands. And this couple did not make it official when other jurisdictions came on board.

  • cyn

    Florida doesn’t care about same sex relationships except to deny them any legal standing. If they had a pre nup, even that is likely NOT to be recognized in Florida. So actually this split up will demonstrate a consequence of denial of legal relationship recognition in Florida. The women are two unrelated adults. Sad but true. It’s just the law. Any questions?

  • Rikard

    We would ALL to anything we had to in court to keep our own money. Like most gold diggers always want to maintain the luxury lifestyle they learned to live with a rich and famous partner. When one goes to live at court, one serves at the pleasure of the Queen. Martina has yet to be replaced as Queen of Center Court.

  • Roy Pyatt

    don’t forget Martina even threw Judy’s kids under the bus to try and keep from paying her in their “divorce”. i lost respect for her way back in the day over those shananigans

  • Roy Pyatt

    don’t forget Martina even threw Judy’s kids under the bus to try and keep from paying her in their “divorce”. i lost respect for her way back in the day over those shenanigans

  • jason

    Martina is simply exploiting the current legal inqualities regarding gay marriage. If I were her, I’d do the same.

    She made a lot of millions through hard work and excellence. She’s entitled to hang on to them.

  • jason

    If I was in Martina’s situation I’d do the same. I hate it when interlopers come along and suddenly want to claim millions simply because they’ve known so-and-so for a few years and shared a bed with them.

  • rick

    people getting divorced are always such assholes when they are the one with the money. doesn’t matter if it is gay or straight.

  • mk

    Martina was always super competitive and focused on winning. She should have had some sort of pre-nups. Can you get a pre-nup when you aren’t going to be legally married, though?

  • Movement Guy

    My understanding is that they were never legally married, so no divorce. Similar arguments have been made by other queer people who are fighting for marriage. I guarantee if there was a legal marriage, there would have been a prenup.

    So this is another Queerty, smear the queer post. Is there a “Smear the Queer” blog? If not, you could consider a subsite?

  • mk

    Actually this case could be used in the fight FOR gay marriage. It’s one of the cases that can be presented to people who say “oh, you gays don’t need actual legal marriages. Just live together or enter into one of these lesser civil union things, what’s the difference?”. When it comes to establishing and sorting out rights and responsibilities legal marriage is important.

  • swellster

    You can’t deny us the benefits of legal marriage and hold us to the same legal standards to our detriment at the same time. She isn’t “married” under the law and should not be held to the same standards. She has different rights and thus, different obligations. I don’t blame her one bit. Until we get the benefits of civil marriage we should not have the legal obligations of civil marriage.

    Act within the law Martina … that is all you are obligated to do.

  • SD

    I think you have overlooked just how many times so-called wives of Navratilova’s have hit her up for cash. She has been through this with a string of goldiggers.

    How many divorces can you think of that aren’t a little messy? The “wronged” – as in the one who didn’t bring big cash into the relationship, always has a string of allegations and is “shocked” that it came “out of the blue”…

    I think she took a good hard look and said I hvae been screwed over enough times and this time I’m not taking it.
    And I think she has a better perspective on their relationship than you do!

  • Distingué Traces

    This isn’t harmful to gay rights at all.

    It underlines the “separate but (not) equal” status of gay marriage.

    Of course, it’s irrelevant whether the ex-wives are gold-diggers or not. The fact that a man’s ex-wife may be a gold-digger does nothing to alter her legal rights to his property.

  • LoveMoby


    Topher, I completely agree.

  • Dabq

    Martina has never been lucky in love, and, always seems to get gold diggers, but her partner has a right to something, although for the life of me I don’t see either of these two women as owning or wearing the ‘jewels’ that are part of the proceeedings.

  • Vanhattan


    Look, I think there are several completely different arguments here and conflated none of them makes sense. Seperately they do.

    1. Under current federal law and DOMA, these two are not married nor do they exist as partners.

    2. Under state law, in Florida, these two are not married nor do they exist as partners.

    3. Under state law in New Hampshire, where they reportedly had a civil union, they are now considered married.

    4. Regardless of 1-3, Navatilova is morally obligated to share some of her wealth with her ex partner/wife/etc.

    5. Navratilova is NOT a GAY or LESBIAN HERO, LEADER, or ROLE MODEL. She is simply a bitter rich bitch who is trying to screw her ex out of the money she deserves.

    6. Navratilova will ignore all above except #3.

    7. Why do we give a flying fuck what she does anyways?

  • BillyBob

    Should have had a prenuptial agreement or something.

  • jason

    Look, let’s not hold ourselves up to a higher standard than straights. We gays come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are good people, some of us are bad people. Some of us are saints, some of us are sinners. Let’s not fall into this trap of being afraid that some of us might not hold up to some impossible standard of purity.

    If a person judges all gays by one or two, it means that person was never gay-friendly in the first place.

  • alan brickman

    everybody would do the same thing….

  • ChristopherJ

    @bluprntguy: Exactly.

  • Cam

    My problem with this is that the Ex is claiming that she and Navratalova agreed to a 50/50 split of everything. I find it impossible to believe that somebody like Navratalova…who has been burned by exes before would EVER agree to ANYTHING like that. This is where the Ex loses credibility with me. If she just sued for some support etc… I could see possibly getting something, although I still have issues with that since she is an adult fully able to work and they have no children to keep her from working. However, trying to make me believe that Martina would ever promise her half of everything just makes me think she is another in a string of goldiggers.

  • thursdaylover

    Is that a pic of Toni? WTF? What did Martina see exactly? All I see is a Gertrude Stein-lookalike who can probably benchpress my uncle’s trailer. Sheesh.

    No wonder Martina’s guards had to remove that witch with force…She’s a freakin’ bulldog!

  • TANK

    but martina’s a dude, so this is bullshit.

  • Mollie


    Martina looks just as unnattractive as Toni. If you had to choose who looks better if would easily be a flip of the coin. I have always admired Martina for her tennis game, but I always thought in the looks department that Martina was batting .000.

    My question is what did Judy Nelson see in Martina beyond star tennis player?

  • Robert, NYC

    @M Shane:

    Aside from opposite gender couples, in what way do you mean that “gay marriages will never be the same if you try to make them look that way”? Which way are you talking about exactly? Even if they were legally married, it wouldn’t change anything, 50% of straight marriages end in divorce as a result of financial problems and the rest well, adultery for the most part. Most divorces are messy when it comes to money. Martina is no different than anyone else. So you would have to paint opposite sex domestically partnered couples (those who chose not to marry) when you make singular statements like that about gay couples, unmarried or not. What does it matter if the couples are same sex or opposite sex? Or do you have an underlying religious reason perhaps? Your statement is flawed.

  • Francis Ging

    We don’t know the whole story. If Toni Layton-Lambert (her husband is Jeffrey nor Martina) is an emblezzer, she doesn’t deserve a cent.

    And Martina has the greatest body I’ve ever seen. *wink

  • TANK

    didn’t know brimley had a sister. DIABEETUS!

  • Jaisne Blue Sexton

    Oh, please. Navratilova is acting like she’s always acted upon splitting from someone. Like a total bitch. She’s acting exactly like straight male ass who cuts his wife and kids off completely and acts like they never meant anything to him.

    For those with reading comprehension difficulties: Layton is not asking for half of everything, just half of what they aquired during their relationship. That’s standard and normal in cases of divorce, and also, in some jurisdictions when straight partners have co-habitated for a long period of time, but haven’t married.

    And that includes when the woman stayed home, and the man went to work. Because men used to argue that the woman contributed nothing by working at home (making a home, raising the kids, etc).

    Remember Amanda Bearse? She pulled the same sort of sh*t on behalf of her new partner when they fought the woman’s previous partner on child custody issues. Claimed the non-biological mother was not a ‘real’ mother, and shouldn’t have any rights to the kid, including visitation.

  • Robin Evans

    OK… So?
    This bit of outrage seems to be a stretch even by Queerty’s elastic standards.

    It wasn’t a marriage, according to these stories. It was some kind of semi-official quasi-legal partnership agreement. And — yes, there’s plenty of evidence from over the years that Navratilova isn’t kind to ex-girlfriends, but why should we now expect her to treat the dissolved partnership as if it had been a marriage when they were denied the benefits of marriage while they were together?

    Couples often get nasty toward each other in a divorce. I see no reason to expect that gay couples will be different when put into that in-extremis situations. But this does not appear to be a divorce. It’s the dissolution of a complex partnership.

    It wasn’t a civil marriage while they were together, so what’s wrong with her lawyers arguing that it shouldn’t be treated as a civil marriage now that they’re splitting up?

    You seem to believe that courts should treat gay couples as though they were in some sort of common-law marriage (which is recognized in some states). I’m not sure that’s the case in the states where this couple lives. But even it it is, it’s a very strange legal angle to take in an attempt to get toward marriage equality.

  • Bonnie Stutzman

    What are the facts of the case? Just because someone enters into a relationship or marriage shouldn’t give someone automatic dibs to their money when they breakup or divorce. Length of the relationship, the spouse’s contribution to the relationship, did the spouse give up a career, etc… Yes they deserve compensation but to say they get 1/2 is ridiculous. A wife who stays at home & raises the kids, advances the other’s career, etc.. should be entitled to more compensation than a companion type relationship. If Martina made her wealth off of her own doings without significant contribution from the ex, the ex should get a some reasonable settlement but that is all. I am a lesbian and I don’t care if the parties are gay or straight…fair is fair. Martina..you need to learn the word ‘prenuptial contract’. Also I think it is different when you are an established adult who enters into a relationship in your later years. My partner and I have wills that leave our stuff to one another. However if we ever broke up, our respective 401K’s & pensions are just that–our own. No dividing, etc… We both work and feel strongly that we earned and built it and are entitled to it solely if we ever break up.


    Seems little PR of late concerning this lawsuit. Maybe Martina is actually mediating and realizing one cannot just use someone for eight years to serve them and toss them to the wayside.

  • Bonnie Stutzman

    Ditto…or are the lawyers going back and forth playing the game. Cheaper to settle sooner than later.

  • Frank

    Toni looks to be in her mid to late 50’s. She was in a relationship with Martina for 7 or 8 years. That means she entered into this relationship when she was in her late 40’s at best. So why in the world would she be entitled to half of Martina’s money which had mostly been earned LONG before the two ever met?

    This woman is a gold-digger plain and simple. I wonder how she treated her husband? What was the situation there? This is a person of questionable character.

  • AxelDC

    Why should this opportunistic ex use Martina’s celebrity and openness to steal her hard-earned money?

    She lost a lot of endorsements in the 1970s and 1980s when she ran up the most impressive win streak in tennis history because she was out and proud. That didn’t stop her girlfriend from trying to take her money back then, either.

    I’ve never felt entitled to my boyfriends’ paychecks, especially money earned before I met them, so why should Martina have to put up with that crap in the name of gay equality?

  • AxelDC

    She actually wants to serve and volley.

    No. 46 · CINDY

    Seems little PR of late concerning this lawsuit. Maybe Martina is actually mediating and realizing one cannot just use someone for eight years to serve them and toss them to the wayside.

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