On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Barack Obama began his second term by declaring a commitment to gay rights -- the first time such an idea had been uttered from an inauguration podium. That same day, a seven-year employee of a Christian-owned Nashville music venue was fired, allegedly for "non-Christian" behavior on social media, and wearing a T-shirt that announced his support for gay marriage.
Wes Breedwell took to Twitter on Monday, announcing that he'd been fired from Rocketown. "Social media is what did it," he wrote, and then sent along a snap of him in a T-shirt for the band Hostage Calm, with the slogan, "I Support Same-Sex Marriage" on the back.
When Hostage Calm's Chris "Cmar" Martin got wind that a fan had suffered for his support, he gave him a call. In a statement released on the punk band's website and Facebook page, Martin said that Breedwell told him about years of discrimination, in which the music club denied him raises and promotions because of his beliefs.
The band also emailed AltPress a photo that appeared to be a document given to Breedwell on his firing. "You cannot wear a shirt to work on an office day or a show day supporting same sex marriage," it states. "It is imperative that our beliefs are not personal or presented @ work that contradict the mission."
Under federal law, and in most states, including Tennessee, it is not illegal to fire someone for being gay, or supporting gay marriage. But it is illegal to discriminate against an employee for his or her religious beliefs.
The venue's founder, Michael W. Smith, denied that Breedwell was fired for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage. "Rocketown does not comment on personnel issues," Smith's publicist wrote in a statement obtained by The Tennessean newspaper, "but, generally speaking, an employee would not be fired for expressing opinions on marriage."
But while Cmar, who had played Rocketown several times, said that he thought it was "a positive force in the Nashville community," Breedwell's story has changed his mind. "A youth center and music venue cannot be a positive force in the community if it degrades and belittles the value of some of our people based on sexual orientation or gender identity," he said. "That is the force that tears communities apart, not enriches them."
On Tuesday, Hostage Calm called on its fans to wear the "I Support Same-Sex Marriage" shirt in solidarity.
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