Same-sex Family Denied Museum Membership

The notion of what makes a family comes under scrutiny in northern Florida.

A couple is being denied a "family membership" to a local museum because the parents are mom and mom, not mom and dad.

The two can join, but not at the discounted family rate.

"It really just feels like a punch in the gut when you go somewhere and it's kind of thrown in your face we don't want to treat you equally and we're not going to make any effort to do that," says Karen Lee-Duffell.

Lee-Duffell says her family has had a membership at Hands On Children's Museum of Jacksonville for over three years- but when she went to renew her membership this week, an employee noticed that mom and dad's names on the forms were really mom and mom.

"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," explained Lee-Duffell.

She says the employee told her the museum is concerned about people taking advantage and putting multiple families on one membership.

The museum director said in a statement to First Coast News that the memberships are very specific and do not allow substitutions.
A notion that Lee-Duffell says made her feel humiliated.

"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."

The business is within its legal right to create membership plans how it sees fit and since Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, legally the business does not have to.

Still, the news has spread on social media with a Facebook page and petition against the membership policy at the museum - already generating over 200 signiatures.

"I'm not out to destroy anybody what I would like to see happen is for them to change their policy and make it be equal. It's not like I couldn't afford the extra ten dollars but it's the principle of the thing. I don't like to be treated like a second-class family," says Lee-Duffell.

She says she's switching her four-year-old and 13-month-old daughters to a different museum this summer.

"We're members of the YMCA, we're members of the Cumber Art Museum, we're members of the Museum of Art and History we're members of the zoo, all of these places have never had a problem with the fact that we're family and giving us then the family membership."

A museum representative says the employees who previously sold the couple memberships had done so without adding the extra person.

Single parents can purchase individual memberships, but if they wanted to add anyone else, it would be an additional $25 charge.
The couple also would not qualify for the family membership based on this membership policy.

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