Adam Polaski

Dolly Parton Apologizes for Dollywood T-Shirt Incident

Filed By Adam Polaski | August 02, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Dolly Parton, Dollywood, Jennifer Tipton, lesbian t-shirt, marriage, Olivier Odom, Tennessee

DollyParton.jpegLast week a lesbian couple from Tennessee claimed they were discriminated against while visiting Dollywood, a theme park funded and imagined by country music legend Dolly Parton. Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton said they were walking around the park when an employee asked Odom to turn her T-shirt, which read "Marriage is So Gay," in favor of marriage equality, inside-out. The employee reportedly told the couple that the shirt was inappropriate because the park is "family-friendly."

Park officials quickly explained that gay and lesbian families are more than welcome at the park, but now, after the story picked up in the blogosphere, Dolly Parton herself has decided to speak out about the incident. On Friday she released a statement to 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. ... 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.

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I really do think Dolly Parton has a lot of class, and I'm not even a country music fan.

I knew Dolly wouldn't stand for this.

I love Dolly for all the support she has given. However, Dollywood is in TN and I will not drive into TN or spend one red cent in that bigoted state after the nasty legislation they recently passed. No LGBT person should go into TN for any reason. Dolly's support isn't good enough to make a trip into that state.

Om Kalthoum | August 2, 2011 4:49 PM

If the women felt dissed, then they felt dissed. I'm on their side. However, when I first read about this, I also put myself in the shoes of some hourly worker or lower level type employee who saw the "Marriage is So Gay" slogan and really thought, "Isn't 'That's So Gay' supposed to be a bad thing to say? I see it all over the news nowadays about how that's wrong to say when you mean something is bad. OMG, this is probably going to be a controversy; better do something now. But what? I'll tell Mrs. Butz in PR. She'll know what to do." And Mrs. Butz looks in her Rules for Customer Conduct at Dollywood binder and reads about asking people with "offensive" material on their clothing to take it off, cover it up or turn it inside out. Ah, thank goodness, problem solved. Oops, guess not.

Rachel Bellum | August 2, 2011 10:32 PM

This is the first piece I've seen which described the couple as walking around the park.

Please see the original news piece and video here:

Apparently the couple went to the adjoining water park and were stoppped by the gatekeeper [apparently meant to be read as ticket person] at the front entrance for wearing offensive material. Dollywood policy apparently gives these gatekeepers the authority to decide how to enforce the dress code for the thousands of patrons.

Now what was going through this person's head as the couple was trying to gain entry may have been similar to what you described, but I tend to assume it wasn't. Especially as the couple was told that this was a "family" environment.

That doesn't make Dolly a hater, or even necessarily the gatekeeper, but maybe it's time for her to clearly express her support for LGBT people to all her employees. And maybe it's time for a "gay day" at the water park. It is really hot in TN right now.

Annette Gross Annette Gross | August 3, 2011 12:20 AM

I knew Dolly would step up to the plate. But what does she mean when she says she wants to know if this is policy? What policy?