Chilly protest outside Brentwood hotel draws attention

About 25 peaceful protesters lined Old Hickory Blvd. in Brentwood early Saturday morning, Jan. 17, outside the Arte' Hotel to draw attention to what two gay former employees are calling unfair termination from the hotel.

Former hotel employees David Hill and Leonard Stoddard organized the rally after being fired earlier this month by hotel owner Tarun Surti.

The men claim that Surti fired them because they are gay. Surti disputed the claim and said they were fired reasons unrelated to their sexuality.

"It is time for us to be able to do our job without discrimination based on sexuality. It has no credence in the workplace," Stoddard said. "Bigotry needs to go away."

Hill said the protest was intended to draw attention to social inequalities.

"We have Martin Luther King Day coming up when we'll celebrate his efforts and beliefs, but we're still fighting against prejudice," Hill said.

Those in attendance amid the 20-degree temperature included Tennessee Equality Project President Christopher Sanders.

"TEP hopes the Human Relations Commission will investigate this situation thoroughly," Sanders said.

Columbia State Community College professor Linda Brunton, a straight ally, also joined the rally.

"It's important for straight people to get involved in gay rights to bridge the gap," Brunton said.

Brunton said she spoke with a manager at Arte' before joining the protest. She said the female employee told her that Hill was fired for reasons other than his sexuality and said, "We still have sissies working here."

Kevin Bell, of Antioch, bundled up to fight the frigid cold for the protest. Several of his friends were once employed at the Brentwood Arte'.

"(Being here) is the right thing to do," Bell said. "When people drive by and honk and wave, it kind of warms you from the inside."

View our photo gallery for images and more quotes from the protest.

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