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Is Dollywood anti-gay?

27 Jul 2011

Dollywood is owned by Dolly Parton (above) and the Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation

Dolly Parton's ‘Dollywood’ theme park is in trouble with gay rights campaigners, after a gay woman wearing a ‘‘Marriage Is So Gay" t-shirt was told at the gate that she must turn the shirt inside-out.

Olivier Odom reluctantly agreed to hide the slogan, and then entered the Smoky Mountain-themed park in Tennessee with her wife, Jennifer Tipton.

With help from Campaign for Southern Equality, Odom wrote a letter to the park about the incident that occurred two weeks ago. The letter has since been published on the Censorship in America blog and a number of gay advocacy web sites.

Odom wrote: “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.”

According to news reports, a spokesperson from Dollywood said the incident was a misunderstanding about the dress code policy.

Pete Owens told The Advocate: "Thousands of times a day our front gate hosts are asked to enforce our dress code policy.”

"It doesn't have anything to do with who the people are or what their belief system is or with anything other than the fact that we try to prevent as best as we can upon entry of the park one of our guests being offended by something someone else is wearing.”

Dollywood’s dress code policy is worded as follows: “To preserve our family atmosphere proper clothing is required including shirts and shoes (sandals or flip-flops are acceptable). Clothing with offensive words and/or pictures will not be permitted inside the park.”

“Dollywood reserves the right to require additional or different attire where we deem appropriate.”

Dollywood officials say they will contact the couple directly to discuss their complaint. 

Dollywood is ranked as the 24th-most-popular theme park in the United States, with about three million visitors annually.