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Regional & National

Dollywood officials respond to lesbian couple

August 3rd, 2011 12:39 am by Staff Report

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dollywood officials have offered a refund to a lesbian couple after an employee asked one of the women to turn her T-shirt reading "marriage is so gay" inside-out to avoid offending others during a recent visit to the Tennessee theme park complex.

Park officials were going to meet with the couple in person, but it was called off when Jennifer Tipton and Olivier Odom wanted to bring a representative from Campaign for Southern Equality, a gay rights organization.

Dollywood park spokesman Pete Owens told The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/mSMwyV) that the park didn't want to meet with the representative, who wasn't at the park at the time of the incident, so they sent the couple a letter and gave them a refund.

The couple complained after a park worker at Splash Country last month asked Odom to reverse her shirt.

Owens provided the couple with a statement from Dolly Parton, who said she was sorry for any hurt or embarrassment they felt over the request.

"Everyone knows my personal support of the gay and lesbian community," Parton's statement said. "Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome."

Odom and Tipton said they were glad to see Parton's supportive statement, but were disappointed that Dollywood officials declined to meet with them and their equality advocate.

"I think it's an opportunity for Dollywood to come out and publicly support their LGBT staff and visitors," Odom said.

"We still want to see policy changed," Tipton said

Owens had previously said the park has a dress code policy to ask people with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to change or cover up, and that the couple was not asked to leave and they complied with the request to turn the shirt inside out.

The couple sent a letter to Dollywood officials 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."

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

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