Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Those words, taken from President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration speech yesterday — also Martin Luther King Jr. Day — will be recorded as the first addressing gay rights uttered by a sitting president on such an occasion. The same day as those historic words were spoken, however, a Nashville man named Wes Breedwell alleged he was fired from his job as music venue manager at Rocketown — the Nashville non-profit, all-ages music venue, coffee bar, skate park and youth ministry founded by Christian singer Michael W. Smith — when he showed up to work wearing an “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” T-shirt.
On Instgram and via Twitter, Breedwell posted pictures of himself wearing the shirt, which bore the name of Connecticut band Hostage Calm — a group that has performed at Rocketown multiple times, and vowed in a statement yesterday never to play there again — on the front and the pro-gay-rights slogan on the back. In a caption, he stated, “Got fired from Rocketown today. Social media is what did it. So here is a picture to show my support for equality and free speech including social media.”
Breedwell had worked for Rocketown for seven years.
Along with a statement on Breedwell’s behalf, Hostage Calm emailed a photo (below), presumably of Breedwell’s “employee discipline notice.” Under a checked category for “lack of judgment,” handwritten comments read, “You cannot wear a shirt to work on an office day or a show day supporting same sex marriage.” Below, in the “future action steps" section, the notice reads: “It is imperative that our beliefs are not personal or presented [at] work that contradict the mission. Future action will be based on the action but will include suspension or termination.” An employee signature line — to acknowledge the infraction and agree to work to improve said behavior — is left unsigned.
According to the statement, Breedwell told a Hostage Calm member via phone that his termination from Rocketown follows a “a long pattern of discrimination against him for not being Christian and for supporting marriage equality. … [O]ver the seven years he has worked there, he’s been denied opportunities for advancement and salary based on his non-Christian beliefs.”
As of press time, Breedwell could not be reached for comment. When contacted by the Scene Monday night, Rocketown director of development and communications Lisa Bergen-Wilson did not address questions as to the validity of Breedwell and Hostage Calm’s claims, but said she would provide the Scene an official statement after conferring with Rocketown’s board of directors. This morning, however, she forwarded the Scene to Rocketown publicist Jacquelyn Marushka, who issued the following statement without further explanation:
Rocketown does not comment on personnel issues, but, generally speaking, an employee would not be fired for expressing opinions on marriage.
At Rocketown we are welcoming and accepting of all youth. We reach out to all kids, are inclusive and very much care about acceptance of youth from different ethnicities, sexual orientations, financial backgrounds and religions. Our mission is to provide a safe and drug-free environment where kids are welcomed, accepted and loved.
"Rocketown will not comment further on this, because as the statement notes, it is not Rocketown's policy to discuss personnel issues," Marushka wrote when contacted by the Scene.
Yet an online firestorm is brewing over the firing, fueled by postings on Twitter, Facebook and other social media calling for a boycott and other measures. The Tennessee Equality Project, the organization that closely monitors statewide issues concerning LGBT rights, issued a denunciation of the incident yesterday:
"TEP condemns this termination and stands in solidarity with the man who was fired for showing his support for our community. It reminds us that allies are in the front lines of the fight for equality."