It’s unfair for anybody to have to live their life looking over their shoulder. It’s un-American.
Imagine having to go to work each day in fear that you will be harassed or discriminated against, simply because of who you are. Sam, a coal miner, endured this every day because he’s gay.
At the time, Sam was working at a local mine. He was also dating Burley, a man who would later become his husband.
When some of his fellow miners found out he is gay1, Sam started experiencing severe harassment on the job. He would go to work to find slurs written on his lunch bucket and locker. His car had been tampered with. Miners would drive to the house where he was living with Burley to knock on his door and intimidate him in the middle of the night. He faced harassment every single day at work, and his superiors never made any efforts to protect him. The constant humiliation and hostile work environment gave Sam so much anxiety that he would often break down in his car on the way to and from work. “It’s unfair for anybody to have to live their life looking over their shoulder. It’s un-American,” said Sam.
When the company Sam worked for failed to protect him, he had to make a tough decision. As a coal miner, you have to be able to rely on and trust your colleagues to protect you and have your back because it’s a dangerous job. Because Sam couldn’t do that, working in the mines became unsafe. After receiving death threats, Sam was ultimately forced to quit his job.
We do everything that everybody else does, but we get ridiculed for who we love.
Leaving this job took a financial toll on Sam. He was unemployed for about a month and a half and forced to take a job where he was making a quarter of what he made at the mines. He went from not worrying about the bills to being unsure if they’d get paid. “We do everything by the book, and we do everything that everybody else does, but you get ridiculed for who you love,” said Sam.
And because Sam lived in West Virginia, one of the 31 states where it’s legal to discriminate against LGBT2 people, there were no protections for him. Similar to Sam, millions of Americans are denied housing, employment, and services because of who they are.
West Virginia has passed 3 laws that actively harm LGBT people.Learn more
Can be fired or denied a promotion
Can be evicted from their homes or denied housing
Can be denied service at public establishments, denied medical treatment, or even kicked out of restaurants or businesses
West Virginia’s total population
Total LGBT population
Of LGBT population raising children