Parton, long a supporter of LGBT issues and gay marriage, finds herself in the middle of this gay pickle that unfolded on July 9. That’s when lesbian couple Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton went to Dollywood’s Splash Country with friends. Odom was sporting a “Marriage is so gay” t-shirt, which park employees asked her to turn inside out before entering the park.
Odom took exception and the park tried to explain away the incident as having to do with a dress code that forbids offensive t-shirts. Start Splashgate.
Last week, Parton apologized but not for the dress code and didn’t provide many details or an offer to revisit whether banning messages of marriage equality is offensive.
“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.”
That’s all fine and good, and Parton continued on her Better Day Tour, which brought her to Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park in Atlanta’s suburbs on Wednesday. She opened with “Walking on Sunshine” and continued from there.
But Splashgate continues to nip at her gay-friendly heels. Park officials were set to meet with Odom and Tipton on Tuesday, but backed out after learning that an official with Campaign for Southern Equality was attending with the couple.
Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens says the park considers the incident between it and one of its guests.
First, marriage equality is offensive. Now, Dollywood officials are scared to meet with a gay activist.
The park apologized in the wake of the incident, but like Parton, it fell short. Splash Country also refunded the admission cost to the couple.
It’s past time that Parton step deeper into the fray. Her support for gay issues means little if they don’t pack a wallop in real-life controversies, especially at parks that carry her name.