Dollywood, the country-style theme park in Tennessee co-owned by buxom crooner Dolly Parton, is in hot water this week after a lesbian couple spoke out, claiming park officials denied them entry because one woman wore a "Marriage is so Gay" T-shirt.
Olivier Odom says that when she and her wife, Jennifer Tipton, visited the park with their friend's young daughters, the guard at the entry gate told her she had to turn her T-shirt inside out. "He said it was a family park," said Tipton. "Families come in a wide range of definitions these days and we were with our family." Dollywood has a dress code stating that clothing deemed offensive or inappropriate must be covered or turned inside out.
"I was in disbelief. I didn't think it was the policy of Dollywood to discriminate against the LGBT community. I was curious what he found offensive about the shirt," Odom said in an interview. "If it was the fact that it had the word gay on it or that it was in conjunction with the word marriage." Odom did eventually turn her shirt and enter the park, saying she didn't want to cause a scene in front of the children.
In an interview with The Advocate, Dollywood rep Pete Ownes said that "thousands of times a day our front gate hosts are asked to enforce our dress code policy. It doesn’t have anything to do with who the people are or what their belief system is or with anything other than the fact that we try to prevent as best as we can upon entry of the park one of our guests being offended by something someone else is wearing." He said that he plans to meet with the couple soon to smooth things over.
Parton herself is both deeply religious and a supporter of gay marriage, cracking to the Toronto Sun, “I think gay people should be able to marry. I just hope that all those gay people who get married have friends who buy them [her album] Better Day as a wedding present." She also said she feels Christians who oppose gay marriage aren't acting very Christian: "They’ve forgotten that the Bible preaches acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness."
In 2004, the park asked the organizers of the popular "Gay Day" at Dollywood event to change their name after protests from the KKK, and in 2009, Gay Day founder Ryan Salyer cancelled the event after years of fighting with Tennessee lawyers and religious groups.