Cross-Dresser's Lawsuit Calls Cedar Point Unfair
Cleveland Man Seeks Redress in Clothing Spat
SANDUSKY - A Cleveland man has sued the parent company of Cedar Point, alleging that he was illegally removed from the amusement park last year for dressing as a woman.
Harry Prather, also known as "Mother Rachael," filed suit last week against Cedar Fair L.P. in Erie County Common Pleas Court. According to the complaint, Mr. Prather is a cross-dresser who entered the park June 17, 2001, "dressed, as he is 80 percent of the time, in female's clothing."
The suit says Mr. Prather and two friends attending the unofficial "Gay Day" at Cedar Point had been in the park for about 90 minutes when a security officer approached and told him to come with her to a security area.
The employee and three other security officers questioned Mr. Prather about his identity and "told him that his clothing was unacceptable and that he could not wear a `costume' in the park," the suit states.
Mr. Prather was escorted out of the park and given a refund for his admission, said his attorney, Larry Zukerman of Cleveland.
"He says, `This is my lifestyle, this is what I wear,'" Mr. Zukerman said. "It fell upon deaf ears."
He said Mr. Prather had on "a simple little frock, sunglasses, gloves, and a purse, which is what he wears all the time."
Janice Witherow, a Cedar Point spokeswoman, said Mr. Prather was asked to leave for violating the park's dress code, which she said has been in effect "for a number of years."
A copy of the code, which is given to all visitors along with a park map, says that shirts and shoes must be worn at all times, swimwear must be sufficiently covered, and clothing with profanity, suggestive pictures, and pictures of illegal substances are prohibited.
But Ms. Witherow said the park also has "a dress code policy that includes common sense as well. ... Cedar Point strictly prohibits costumes of any type to be worn in the park, and this is for safety and security reasons. We need to be able to identify our guests should something happen, and we can't allow one sex to be dressing up as another sex and entering restrooms where they're not supposed to be."
Asked how the park defines a costume, Ms. Witherow replied, "Anything that is atypical dress would be deemed as a costume."
Mr. Zukerman disagreed. "It's not a costume," he said. "You can put it on a woman the same as you can a man. There's no mask, there's no tail."
The suit says the park "caused injury, mental suffering, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, degradation, and trauma" to Mr. Prather. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000 on each of eight counts.
Besides damages, Mr. Zukerman said "we'd also like them to change their policy. Any human being should be admitted as long as they don't cause any problems and adhere to all safety concerns. ... Just to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation is highly offensive.'
Ms. Witherow denied that any discrimination took place.
"Cedar Point has a policy of not discriminating against any of its guests," she said. "However, we have policies and procedures ... we strictly follow, and we deemed that this person was in a costume, which is against our policies."
Gay Day has been an unofficial tradition among gay-rights activists for a number of years. Activists visit the park on Father's Day and wear red or bright rainbow colors. It has not caught the attention of many people.
This year, however, the conservative "traditional values" group, the American Family Association of Northwestern Pennsylvania, complained about the event and urged the park to notify people.