Same-Sex Couple Denied Family Museum Membership

Tayla Holman

Jacksonville, FL -- A same-sex couple who tried to renew a family membership at a local children's museum was told they would not be able to claim family rates.

The Hands on Children Museum in Jacksonville told the lesbian couple that they would have to pay more than a family that includes one mother and one father.

Karen Lee-Duffell said she has had a membership at the museum for over three years and that she had gone to renew the membership when an employee noticed that the Mom and Dad names were actually Mom and Mom names.

"She says, 'Oh wait no, you're going to have pay an extra ten dollars to add this other mom, you can't have two moms,' and she points up at the sign, a family membership consists of one mom and one dad," Lee-Duffell said.

Lee-Duffell also said that the employee told her that the museum is concerned that people will take advantage and put multiple families on one membership.

The director of the museum said that memberships are very specific and substitutions aren't allowed. That means same-sex couples, whether they are two fathers or two mothers, won't be allowed to have museum memberships.

"Just like if they were telling me that we weren't really a family that they obviously thought that we weren't a family and that it did not matter to them that we were being treated unfairly," Lee-Duffell said.

In certain states, same-sex couples are a protected group -- such as Oregon -- and businesses that refuse to cater to them are technically breaking the law. Florida, however, does not recognize same-sex marriage, meaning the museum is within its legal right to define their membership plans as consisting of one mom and one dad.

Word of the museum's decision spread online, and there is currently a Facebook page, as well as a petition, against the membership policy. The petition has received 200 signatures so far.

Karen Lee-Duffell, however, said she wasn't "out to destroy anybody."

"What I would like to see happen is for them to change their policy and make it be equal," she said. "It's not like I couldn't afford the extra ten dollars, but it's the principle of the thing."

In the meantime, Lee-Duffell is switching her 13-month-old and 4-year-old daughters to a different museum this summer.

Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed to have a family museum membership?