T-shirt re-opens discussion on marriage equality in U.S.

Radio listeners in the Pittsburgh region tuned in to KDKA radio at 8pm last Friday night to listen to Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project in Pittsburgh, weigh in on a recent controversy at Dollywood’s Splash Country water park in Tennessee.

As a guest to Johnna Pro’s evening radio show on KDKA, Sue Frietsche commented on the story and the inequality the LGBT community faces.

“We still face frequent, severe discrimination in public accommodations, employment, housing, and education. As a nation, we pay lip service to equality and justice, but the truth is that we have failed to protect LGBT families from unfairness, exclusion, and bigotry.”

Surprisingly this controversy was sparked by a simple message on a t-shirt.

 On July 9th, Jennifer Tipton and Olivier Odom visited Dollywood’s Splash Country water park with friends and their friends’ children. While entering the park, Odom was stopped at the park’s gates and quietly asked to turn her shirt inside out. The reason? Her t-shirt read, “Marriage is so gay.”

Dollywood parks enforce a dress code policy that bans clothing deemed offensive or inappropriate. What constitutes “offensive” is left to park attendants to decide. The park attendant justified his decision by saying that the t-shirt was offensive because Dollywood is a “family park.”

“That’s what we found so offensive — that he said it was a family park,” Tipton said. “Families come in a wide range of definitions these days and we were with our family.”

For many in the gay community, this story was surprising. Dolly Parton is well-known for her acceptance and support of the LGBT population. However, after two weeks of silence, Parton released a statement apologizing to Odom and her family.

“Everyone knows my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome.”

Because of the media attention they have received, Odom and Tipton are using their story as an opportunity to broadcast the inequality millions of other LGBT people face- even in amusement parks.

Odom stated, “If marriage equality is going to happen, it’s not going to happen if people sit at home quietly.”

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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