It all started when Jennifer Tipton and Olivier Odom decided to take a friends' children to Dollywood's Splash Country for the day. While entering the park, Odom, who was wearing a shirt stating "Marriage is so Gay," was asked to turn her shirt inside-out before going in because it was a family park. Odom and Tipton, not wanting to make a scene or spoil any of the fun for the children with them, complied with the request and decided they'd handle the situation later. They wrote a letter to Dollywood, stating that they felt discriminated against. They also asked 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.
Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens had earlier addressed the incident, which is now gaining national attention, saying that while the park is open to all families, their policy is to ask people with clothing or tattoos that could be considered offensive to others to cover up or change.
Late last week, Dolly Parton herself issued a statement via ABC News:
"I am truly sorry for the hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian T-shirt incident at Dollywood's Splash Country recently. Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome," read the statement. "I am looking further into the incident and hope and believe it was more policy than insensitivity. I am very sorry it happened at all."
A meeting had initially been scheduled between Tipton, Odom, and park officials today, but was called off by Dollywood when they learned that Tipton and Odom planned to bring Jasmine Beach-Ferrera of the Campaign for Southern Equality in the meeting. The park stated that they felt this is an issue between the park and its guests, and that those not at the park that day should not be included.
Owens has apologized to the couple, and states that this will be one of the policies they look into for 2012.
Odom's hope is that the park will change its policy on what it considers "offensive," and that their employees will be given sensitivity training.