Meeting canceled between Dollywood officials and lesbian couple

Meeting canceled between Dollywood officials and Knoxville lesbian couple

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By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - A meeting between Dollywood Splash Country officials and a Knoxville lesbian couple to discuss the park's dress code has been canceled.

In July, Olivier Odom was asked by a Splash Country ticket taker to turn her T-shirt inside out to cover up the phrase "marriage is so gay."

Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said they've offered to meet with the couple, but not with their advisor, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of the Southern Campaign on Equality.

Owens said this is a guest service issue and since Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton were the guests, the discussion should be between them and the park.

"We contacted Olivier and Jennifer last week about setting up a meeting with them dealing with a guest complaint," Owens said. "They declined to meet with us."

But the couple sees it differently. 

They believe that because of all the media attention, it's become more than just about dress codes. They feel they need a third party to protect their interests and the interests of the larger LGBT community.

"It's a bigger issue of acceptance of the LGBT community," Odom explained, adding that it's about "the policies that Dollywood has and making them more clear so this doesn't happen again."

The couple also believes the dress code should be clearer.

Odom was asked to turn her "marriage is so gay" T-shirt inside out because it might offend a park goer, even though no one had complained. 

"I think the issue is, it needs to be more defined. Not that there is a dress code, I understand that. It's a private business. They have their right to a dress code, but it just needs to be more defined for the future so it won't happen again," said Tipton.

We asked Owens if the dress code had changed because of this controversy. He said no.

Dolly Parton released a statement last week that was made public Monday.

"I am truly sorry for any hurt or embarrassment regarding the T-shirt incident and Dollywood's Splash Country recently. Everyone knows my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome. We do have a policy about profanity or controversial messages on clothing or signs. It is to protect the individual wearing or carrying them as well as to keep down fight or problems by those opposed to it on park. We even offer free shirts in exchange for those who want to remain on park. I am very sorry it happened at all."

Owens says Dollywood will contact the couple by mail and refund their admissions.

The couple says they look forward to hearing from Owens and hopes he addresses some of their concerns.

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