Children's museum excludes gay families from its membership policy

A Florida museum thinks including same-sex spouses in its family membership plan is an unfair "substitution"

Published June 10, 2013 9:43PM (EDT)

Karen Lee-Duffell  (First Coast News)
Karen Lee-Duffell (First Coast News)

The Hands on Children's Museum in Jacksonville, Fl., denied a mother its family membership rate after a museum employee noticed that the names under "Mom and Dad" on the application were both women.

Karen Lee-Duffell told First Coast News that the employee tried to charge her an additional $10 for the "substitution" involved in including her wife as part of her family membership: "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."

The museum defended its policy in a statement, explaining its membership guidelines are "very specific" and, that apparently, discriminating against gay parents is all part of keeping entrance fees low and family-friendly:

The Hands On Children’s Museum Family memberships are very specific. They have not changed in 13 years. Our Family Membership cost has only gone up $1.00 in almost 13 years. To keep our rates as reasonable as possible, we do not allow any substitutions; whether they are friend, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa or any other person

While Lee-Duffell has the $10 to spare, she intends to take her daughters elsewhere for cultural edification:

We're members of the YMCA, we're members of the Cummer 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 the family membership.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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