As the Australian Open began today, a group is calling for fans to raise rainbow flags to protest in a “peaceful, non-disruptive” way against anti-gay comments made by former tennis champion Margaret Court.

Flag-owners are being called on after the former world number one made inflammatory comments about gays last month.

Court is now a minister and has an arena named in her honour at the annual tournament.

Court, 69, prompted a row with other tennis greats by saying gays were “aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take”.

A Facebook group has the aim of providing “peaceful, non-disruptive support for the gay community by inundating [Margaret Court Arena] with rainbow flags during the Australian Open” has over 1,700 supporters.

Protest coordinator, the gay journalist Doug Pollard said: “We are not asking for a lot of noise.”

“We just want to say that we don’t agree with all the lies Margaret Court has been peddling.

“People think that she has got away with it for too long and have heard enough of her trading in on her tennis halo.”

Craig Tiley, the Australian Open’s director, said: “People have every right to express their views and that extends to those who want to attend the tennis on Monday and wear the rainbow colours. Indeed we embrace their right to do so.

“We do remind though, that we are running a Grand Slam tennis event and as such are conscious of ensuring there is no disruption to play or to the experience of the thousands of fans who flock to the Australian Open every year.”

Court reportedly told The Australian she would still attend the competition if there were protests, saying: “I don’t run from anything.”

On Twitter, user @paulkidd said it was a “lovely day for tennis, and for standing up against homophobia.”

Court insisted her comments had been taken the wrong way if people concluded she took issue with gay people rather than the “choice” of homosexuality.

She said: “I think there’s young people today that need to know it’s a choice in life. And that was my side of it, bringing that forth. I’ve got nothing against the people themselves, I’ve always said that all the years I’ve been a minister.”

In advance of the tournament, Doug Pollard tweeted: “Margaret Court says lesbians ‘ruined’ tennis: yeah, like gay men ‘ruined’ musical theatre!”

In opposition to the rainbow flag display, a Facebook group entitled “No Rainbow Flags Over Margaret Court Arena” calls for people to stop “hassling” public figures and leave the tennis tournament “for the tennis”.

Administrators wrote that complaints about the page were “boring dribble, and typical of the arrogant, self centred approach, of the gay community. As always, all too willing to turn whatever forum they can, into a massive arguament about ‘gay rights’.”