Now, I am and long have been a huge fan of Dolly Parton. Going to Dollywood would be almost a religious pilgrimage for me. My best friends says when he dies, he wants to be cremated and his ashes scattered over Dollywood.
And Dolly herself has never been shy about her love and support for the LGBT community. In fact, just last Friday we had an interview with Dolly in Dallas Voice leading up to her concert at the Verizon Theatre on Tuesday night.
So I was greatly surprised — and felt a significant wrenching in my heart — when I saw this news headline this morning from WBIR.com, the NBC affilliate in Knoxville.com: “Lesbian couples claims discrimination at Dollywood.”
According to the story, lesbian couple Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton recently took some friends’ children for a day of fun at the theme park nestled in Dolly’s hometown area of Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Odom was wearing a T-shirt that said “Marriage is So Gay,” and when they got to the gate, the attendant told her she would either have to change shirts, or turn that one inside-out so the message wasn’t visible. When she asked him why, she says, the attendant told her, “This is a family park.”
Odom said she was curious to know whether the attendant was offended by the word “gay” or by the use of the word “gay” in conjunction with the word “marriage.” She also noted that he apparently wasn’t the least bit offended by other folks’ clothing and tattoos sporting the Rebel flag or other vulgar or offensive images or words.
Although angered by the demand, Odom went ahead and complied, because she and Tipton didn’t want to disappoint the children who were looking forward to a day at the park. But afterward, the women contacted Campaign for Southern Equality, which suggested they write a letter of complaint. They did, telling the Dollywood folks: “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.”
A spokesperson for Dollywood said the theme park’s policy to let the gate attendants be the ones to make decisions on enforcing the dress code, and park officials say they plan to contact Odom and Tipton to talk to them about the complaint. I sure hope they do it soon, and that this gets straightened out (so to speak). And I am wondering whether Dolly herself will make any comment about the situation? I think it’d be nice if she came out and said something like “Yes, Dollywood is a family park, and because of that, we are going to honor and respect ALL families.”
And I’d be happy to talk to Dolly and publish any statement she might want to make (Dolly, if you’re reading this, give me a call: 214-754-8710 ext. 128).