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Children’s museum calls cops, threatens LGBT-supportive kids with trespassing

Monday, June 24, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A children’s museum in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday allegedly notified police and threatened a group of children with trespassing after they delivered a petition asking the museum to “stop discriminating” against LGBT families.

Hands On Children’s Museum, Jacksonville, Fla.

The Hands On Children’s Museum has been the target of gay rights advocates since earlier this month when it denied its family membership rate to lesbian parents after a museum employee noticed that the names under “Mom and Dad” on the application were both women.

Karen Lee-Duffell, whose family has had a membership at the museum for three years, said that when she went to renew, a museum employee tried to charge her an additional $10 for “substituting” her wife as part of her family membership.

“You can’t have two moms’ and she points up at the sign, a family membership consists of one mom and one dad,” said Lee-Duffell.

News of the museum’s policy spread on social media, prompting a boycott and creation of a petition at Change.org, asking the museum to change its “discriminatory policies toward families who just-so-happen not to have a mom and a dad.”

On Saturday, petition organizer Mary Kimrey reported that when children attempted to deliver the petition signatures to the museum, they were told they were trespassing and museum employees called the police:

Children attempted to deliver a copy of this petition to The Hands On Children’s Museum. The children were not allowed inside and were told they were trespassing. They politely handed the petition to a lady outside, said thank you, and turned around, respecting the museum’s rights to turn them away. The museum called the police on the children, but no arrests were made.

The friendly Jacksonville police officer made it clear that no other demonstrators, including children, were to attempt to set foot on museum property.

The museum has denied it discriminates against LGBT families, but a museum employee who declined to be identified issued this statement:

“The Hands on Children’s Museum does not discriminate against gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. We have and will remain welcoming and inclusive. Our family memberships include Mom, Dad and their children and allow unlimited visits throughout the year. For single parent families, we allow for other adults in the household to be added as members with the parents consent and payment of $10.00 administrative fee. This policy is consistent with our religious beliefs, and Florida law, while still allowing us to accommodate non-traditional child rearing.”

The museum has since revised its family rates. But rather than allow its family rate to include families of same-sex parents, the museum removed “1 Mom & 1 Dad” from its family plan, and replaced it with “1 Named Parent” or “Grandparent.” Now the additional $10 charge will apply to all families who want to add a second parent, gay or straight.

Last week, a museum spokesperson said the museum’s staff have been “discriminated against, threatened and attacked” over the phone and via email, and that the museum deserves an apology for how it is being treated.

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