On July 9, 2011, Olivier Odom and her wife, Jennifer Tipton, visited Splash Country at Dollywood with their friend’s daughters. Before entering the park, Odom was instructed to turn her t-shirt, which read “Marriage is So Gay,” inside out because a park employee deemed it offensive in a “family-friendly” environment. For Odom, the shirt expresses her belief in marriage equality. But she complied with the employee’s request, not wanting to ruin the outing for her friend’s children. What she experienced is an example of what can happen when a LGBT person or ally is out in public life: they are pressured to go back in the closet.
Odom reported this incident on CSE’s map, which tracks discrimination, harassment and violence motivated by ant-LGBT bias, and CSE is providing ongoing support to the couple. Odom submitted a letter to Dollywood’s Guest Service Department describing what occurred and advocating for park policies that respect the freedom of speech of customers and that are clearly inclusive of LGBT people. Dollywood has yet to issue a formal statement or directly contact Odom and Tipton. Odom continues to stress that her interest is in expressing support for marriage equality and equal civil rights for LGBT people, which includes equal treatment in public accommodations. Odom is also motivated by the children who were with her that day, wanting to make sure they know that what happened was unfair and that it’s important to stand up for equality in such moments.
The story continues to attract media attention, including in the following outlets: