Nashville Music Venue Fires Employee for Wearing T-Shirt Supporting Marriage Equality


Wes Breedwell, an employee of Rocketown, a Nashville, Tennessee music venue and Christian youth outreach facility, was fired this week for wearing a t-shirt from the Connecticut-based punk band Hostage Calm reading "I Support Same-Sex Marriage".

Wrote Breedwell on Instagram: "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. Cheers to my friends for having my back through all of this. #sevenyears"

The blog Property of Zack posted a photo of the letter stating Breedwell's offenses:


And the band Hostage Calm is now speaking out :


HostagecalmToday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a longtime supporter of Hostage Calm and marriage equality was fired from his job at the Nashville music venue, Rocketown, for wearing his “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” shirt to work. A friend from Nashville contacted me about the situation and told me of Wes Breedwell, this seven-year employee of Rocketown who now finds himself the victim of discrimination. We called this brave man to hear his story, demonstrate our support, and figure out how we can help.

What I heard from him was a long pattern of discrimination against him for not being Christian and for supporting marriage equality. Rocketown is a Christian-owned non-profit community center and venue: not a church. And yet, over the seven years he has worked there, he’s been denied opportunities for advancement and salary based on his non-Christian beliefs. Today, Rocketown fired him for wearing this shirt commemorating equality (along with his non-Christian activity on social media pages). Wes emphasized that employees routinely wear band shirts at Rocketown. So why did this shirt cause such a problem?

It’s important to note that they didn’t fire him for wearing A SHIRT. They fired him because of what that shirt stands for. For what that shirt threatens.

This shirt represents an idea that all people have the right to live their lives without being told who to love and whose love is more valuable. It represents equality under the law. It represents the freedom to choose.

So how could a youth center not support such a vital, foundational understanding of human freedom and equality as part of their social mission? Hostage Calm has played Rocketown multiple times. In my prior visits, I was under the impression that Rocketown was a positive force in this Nashville community: they had a music venue, skatepark, and other outlets for Nashville youth. But 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. That is the force that tears communities apart, not that enriches them.

I originally planned to make a post today about Dr. King, the status of his Dream, and how we can all work together to realize equality in modern America. This unfortunate event demonstrates that Dr. King’s Dream is still under threat, and that the struggle of the LGBT community for equal standing under the law is a Civil Rights issue of our time.

Hostage Calm promises to do everything in its power to raise awareness and challenge this injustice in Nashville. We will certainly never play Rocketown again. We’ll continue to post more information as Wes and H.C. take further action. For now, you can help by reposting his story to shine a light on this injustice, and by boycotting the venue. Most of all, please send all your support to Wes Breedwell and his fight for justice.

May Love Prevail,
Cmar, Hostage Calm


  1. AJ says

    @ROBERT: Why would MANY of us be too scared to wear it? I don’t get you. I would wear the 5hit out of that shirt and none of my workplaces would have a problem with it. In fact, here in MN I wore my Vote No shirt like crazy at work. No one ever said anything.

  2. mike8787 says

    There is no first amendment implication here. The First Amendment prohibits municipal, state and federal governments – and only those entities – from restricting the freedom of speech.

  3. SC David says

    Reading the Employee Discipline Notice, the “Future Action Steps” state:

    “It is imperative that our beliefs are not personal or presented @ work that contradict the mission. Future action will be based on the action but will include suspension or termination.”

    That’s unusually incoherent. If they’re truly a private organization then they can set their employment policies as restrictively they please so long as they do not discriminate based on protected classes (race, religion, etc.). One theory for a First Amendment claim would be if Rocketown receives public funds and then denies access to those who espouse religious or poltical viewpoints different from the operators.

    The website indicates they were founded in 1994 by Michael W. Smith (famous contemporary Christian singer-songwriter) as “a model for Christian-based relational outreach.” In addition to their extensive on-site activities they offer an after-school program at a local high school. Their Code of Conduct involves a Theological Statement with eight core principles consistent with evangelicalism. The only mention of a clothing code is an Expectation (III.11) for “professional conduct in all aspects, including language, dress, and other behaviors, both on the premises and after hours.”

    From their most recent (2010) IRS Form 990, they received $1.2M in “contributions and grants” so it should not take much investigative journalism to determine whether there is a First Amendment claim due to receiving government monies.

  4. Francis says

    Actually, Robert is 100% right. Given the fact 49% of self-identified LGBT persons are closeted at work. And that’s half of gay people who are out in the first place, so the true number is well over half of gay people being CLOSETED at work. So yes, a major amount of gay people, especially in a state like Tennessee, would be scared to wear this shirt out of fear of potential firing or gay bashing.

    The goal needs to be just like it was at that awful cafe that shoved that hate letter in the face of the lesbian couple in North Carolina a few weeks ago…………get the word out publicly, and destroy this businesses’ reputation and popularity.

    Also……….Wes is awesome and it’s great to see straight guys standing up for our rights more and more! There has been a lot of backlash against this on social media, too.

  5. Steve says

    Just another case of Christians doing social services not because they care about people or youth, or because it’s a good thing to do, but because they want to convert and indoctrinate people. In other words: business as usual

  6. Paul R says

    It’s great that he’s supportive, but why did he work there for 7 years if they treated him poorly for not being Christian? And why would you want to work there if you weren’t Christian? Nashville would have other employment opportunities.

  7. ratbastard says

    I have no problem with his shirt, naturally, but he was working for an employer who did. And they do have the legal right to terminate his employment, assuming he was an employee at will, which he presumably was. This is not a violation of his civil rights. Although I have issues with America’s labor laws, I don’t think this is necessarily one of them. I do hope the guy is OK, and quickly finds employment if he needs to.

    And yes, it’s perfectly OK to criticize this organization for their actions in being anti-gay marriage. There of course is nothing wrong with that. Picket if people want, or take other measures. But they did have a legal right to terminate his employment.

  8. Francis says

    Rocketown promotes itself as all-inclusive though. Accepting of all races, religions and yes, sexualities. So yeah, one could say “you could see this coming”, but ultimately, while Christian, Rocketown did not portray itself as anti-gay. That’s the problem. I doubt Wes, any gay person or straight ally would work there had he known from the outset that the company was bigoted.

    Many of us have been in similar situations. Working under hostile circumstances but we enjoy the job, the people we work with, or like the pay. Ultimately being gay/pro-gay should not lead to someone being fired from a job.

  9. Francis says

    He wasn’t just fired for violating their phantom dress code, he was fired because he openly promoted/supported our rights with his shirt and also on instagram. He got fired for being a straight ally, more or less.

    Anyway, the backlash has been huge on FB and social media. Good to see so many people have this guys’ back. Wes is a good ally and we’re gaining a lot more support from equality minded straight folk.

  10. John Ruff says

    It’s a good thing he was fired. Now, he can put some effort on finding a real job with a real employer, in other words, a job that uses him for his intelligence as well as his cognitive and practical skills.

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