Gay Couple Asked to Reverse Shirt at Dollywood

July 26, 2011 - 4:13 PM

Dollywood Gay Couple

In a July 25, 2011 photo, lesbian couple Jennifer Tipton, left, and Olivier Odom are seen at a coffee house in Knoxville, Tenn. The couple are calling for Dollywood Splash County to be more inclusive to its guests after they were asked to reverse the pro-gay marriage T-shirt worn by Odom, during a recent visit. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Saul Young)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A lesbian couple is asking for changes at Dollywood after an employee asked one of the women to turn her T-shirt reading "marriage is so gay" inside-out to avoid offending others on a recent visit to the Tennessee theme park complex.

Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton told The Knoxville News Sentinel they want the park to be more inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families after Odom was asked to reverse her shirt when they visited Dollywood Splash Country next to the Pigeon Forge amusement park. The story was first reported by WBIR-TV in Knoxville.

Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said on Tuesday that Dollywood is open to all families, but their dress code policy is to ask people with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to change clothes or cover up.

Owens said the couple was not asked to leave and complied with the rules to reverse the shirt when asked.

"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.

Owens said park officials are discussing the matter and will speak to the couple directly.

Odom said that they visited the water park July 9 with friends and their friends' children when she was asked by a person at the ticket booth to turn her shirt inside out because it was a family park.

Odom said she complied so as not to make a scene in front of the children, but felt offended.

"Our whole deal is about marriage equality and being treated equally," said Tipton. "It's not that we're trying to cause a big stir."

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.

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Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com