A lesbian couple visiting Dollywood was asked to reverse their t-shirt that wore a statement about gay marriage. Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton went to Dollywood with their friends and daughters. The t-shirt said: “Marriage is so gay.”
“We were walking into the gate area and the man taking the tickets told me he would need me to turn my shirt inside-out before entering the park,” said Odom. “I questioned why and he told me because it was a family park.” Odom complied. “I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the girls. I wanted them to have a fun time, so I went ahead and did it and figured that I could handle it more tactfully outside of the park setting.”
Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said Monday the park has always been inclusive and the couple was not asked to leave the park. The objection was only about the shirt. “The park is open every day to everybody,” Owens said. “We try to provide an environment for families of all shapes and sizes to enjoy themselves.
Dolly Parton herself is advocate of gay rights. Owens said park gatekeepers are regularly reminded to make sure dress in the park is appropriate, and guests are asked to cover up tattoos or turn shirts inside-out on a regular basis. He said gatekeepers are given the discretion to decide what is offensive and to politely offer ways to cover the offensive shirt or tattoo, including letting guests wear a Dollywood shirt.
Odom and Tipton are not legally married, but held a ceremony last year in North Carolina. They wrote an email to the park asking the park “to implement policies that are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; conduct staff sensitivity training; and issue a public statement indicating that the park is inclusive of all families.” Owens said the couple’s complaints have sparked discussion at the park about the dress code, a policy that park employees deal with frequently because of the thousands of visitors every year.