Following HRC’s endorsement of The Equality Act, a comprehensive federal non-discrimination law, HRC will be sharing the stories of LGBT Americans who have been affected by discrimination across the nation.
Luke Peterson has testified three times before lawmakers in Nebraska’s state legislature about the need for a state non-discrimination law — once for each of the times he believes he’s lost a job because of his sexual orientation.
Nebraska is one of 31 states that lack fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections, leaving people like Peterson at risk for being fired, denied a job or apartment, or refused service because of who they are or who they love.
The story that Peterson focuses on the most took place during his senior year of college. He was living in Lincoln, NE when he saw a posting for a job at a local wine shop. “I was finishing my degree and once I graduated, I would have student loans bills I would have to anticipate,” Peterson said.
Peterson was raised on a small farm in Bertrand, Nebraska, where his parents have been growing grapes since he was 16. His family sells their own wine, with the surplus grapes going to a nearby vineyard. “I met with the manager and explained that we have a small vineyard and make our own wine, so I can tell you the difference between very dry, dry to sweet, to Kool Aid,” said Peterson.
Peterson was hired on the spot and worked part-time at the shop for nine months. Three months before graduation, his boyfriend — who worked as a chef in a local restaurant — stopped by to see the shop.
When Peterson went into work the next day, he says he was told they didn’t need any help that day and that he could have the day off. But “I didn’t want the day off, I wanted to earn some money,” Peterson said. Peterson’s calls and emails to schedule work in the following days went unreturned. He hasn’t worked in the store since.
The Human Rights Campaign is leading efforts to pass a federal nondiscrimination bill — because everyone — including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people — should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families. To find out more, go to HRC.org/equalityforward.