Julie Peck, a devoted mother of three and owner of Lucy Coffee Café in St. Paul discusses how she works to promote a welcoming environment both in her personal life and in her business – and why business owners should stand up and vote NO on the anti-marriage amendment in November.
Lavender Magazine: Julie, as a straight ally, what was your journey like to become a supporter of equality for all – regardless of sexual orientation?
Julie Peck: I came from a relatively conservative family growing up, but I think I have always been aware and supportive of people and their differences. Growing up, I always tried to do what I could to help others and to respect everyone no matter their background, ethnicity of lifestyle. My first two children were born deaf. Having deaf children changed everything.
LM: What about having deaf children made you want to work for equality?
JP: Having two deaf sons, I knew early on that their lives were going to be different from the social norm. Here I was, a hearing parent with two children who would use a different language and belong to a different culture than I do.
I knew they would be treated differently, however, I wanted them to know equality, acceptance, opportunity and the freedom to make their own decisions. Early on, I decided that learning sign language and immersing them in the deaf community at a young age was important to me.
LM: Has your work with your sons and the deaf community shaped your opinion of LGBT rights and specifically marriage?
JP: As a mother, you never want your children to be treated differently simply because of who they are. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. I have seen this with all people – no matter their gender, race, disability, language, or who they love. Everyone should be respected and it is not our place to judge those who are different. That is why voting no on this amendment is very important to me. Everyone deserves the right to love who they love and marry the person they love.
LM: As a business owner, what do you do to promote equality within your business and among your staff?
JP: When hiring an employee, I look at the person and their qualifications. A great employee is a great employee regardless of sexual orientation, disability, or culture.
LM: From your perspective, what is the most important thing that gays and lesbians can do to help employers promote equality in the workplace?
JP: I believe that all people should be open and honest about what is important to them and they should take the time to educate their employer and co-workers about the struggles, triumphs, and challenges in growing up and living in a dogmatic society. I realize that this is difficult for everyone, but it is important for both the person and the employer.
LM: Julie, what advice would you give to employers who want to promote equality in their business?
JP: You shouldn’t have to promote equality; it should just be there. Be open and hire your employees based on their individual qualifications and merit because that is all that should matter in evaluating a potential employee. Love is love, and the bottom line is that absolutely no one should be excluded from making a lifetime commitment to the person they love through marriage.