Lesbian Couple claims discrimination at Dollywood

10:15 PM, Jul 19, 2011   |    comments
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Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton say they are a family just like any other newly wed couple. They got married in the Outerbanks last year.

However, when they went to Dollywood's Splash Country with some friend's kids a couple of weeks ago, they say they weren't treated like family.

"I was in disbelief. I didn't think it was the policy of Dollywood to discriminate against the LGBT community," said Odom.

She said the front gate host asked her to take off her t-shirt and turn it inside out.

"I looked at him and I was like really? He said 'This is a family park,'" she said.

Her t-shirt read "Marriage is so Gay." The shirt raises money for an organization that promotes gay marriage.

"I was curious what he found offensive about the shirt. If it was the fact that it had the word gay on it or that it was in conjunction with the word marriage," she said.

Dollywood's spokeperson said it their policy for the gatekeepers to make decisions about how to enforce the dress code for the thousands of patrons. Their intentions are to prevent any other patrons from being offended. They haven't had the opportunity to review this case.

However, the couple feels they were singled out.

"It was just this one guy who picked out this one t-shirt, when there were rebel flags and offensive tatoos there," said Tipton, Odom's wife.

Odom followed through with their procedure because she didn't want to spoil the children's day.

"I didn't feel like it was necessary in front of them. They were really excited and I felt like I could handle it outside of the situation in a more tactful manner," she said.

Instead, she went through an organization called the Campaign for Southern Equality who advised writing a letter.

She hopes that this will lead to changes in Dollywood policies. In the letter she suggested, "To ensure that your customers are not treated this way in the future, I would like to see Dollywood: implement policies that are inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people; conduct staff sensitivity training; and issue a public statement indicating that the park is inclusive of all families."

Dolly Parton has been outspoken in her support of gay marriage.

Dollywood officials said they plan to contact the couple to talk about their complaint.

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