Rainbow flag waved in front of government building

I grew up the youngest of six children in a home where LGBTQ people and issues were not discussed, except for the occasional derogatory comment. I knew from a young age that I was gay but I kept it to myself for many years out of fear of rejection.

At 17, I met a boy and we began dating. He told his parents about our relationship and they responded with acceptance and love. So I found the courage to come out to my parents. It was a very different experience. They kicked me out of the house and didn't speak to me for many years.

I finished high school and took a job as an executive assistant at an advertising firm. I loved that job. One day, when my boss and I were talking, she asked me about my weekend. I told her I spent time with my boyfriend. She said, “You’re gay?” I said yes. Then she fired me and said I should be out by the end of the day.

Many people may not realize that it is still legal in 30 states to fire someone for being gay. I can tell you discrimination is alive and well, I’ve lived it not just at home, but at work.

That’s why I’m closely watching a trio of Supreme Court cases related to LGBTQ employment discrimination. Two gay men and a transgender woman were each fired from their jobs just for being who they are.

The decisions could come any day now. I hope the justices affirm that all LGBTQ people should be able to work hard and support themselves and their families without fear of harassment or discrimination at work.

A ruling in favor of LGBTQ protections would go a long way toward correcting the injustices that LGBTQ people face every single day. It would grant LGBTQ people crucial protections from discrimination and would send a message nationwide that LGBTQ people deserve respect, dignity and equality.

After I was fired, I decided to go to college. While there, my partner and I were walking in a park holding hands when a police officer approached us. He was confrontational and argumentative and cited us for public indecency.

We fought the citation and it was eventually dismissed but that didn't erase the damage from the experience. My partner, who had recently come out, was extremely shaken by the incident and broke things off. Discrimination hurts and can negatively affect people’s lives and worldviews.

I became politically active after getting fired and the offensive police citation strengthened my resolve. I have since volunteered with several state organizations in the fight to bring comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections to Ohio.

I’ve testified before the legislature multiple times, calling on state lawmakers to pass a law that protects LGBTQ people not just at work, but also in housing and public spaces. The stakes for our community could not be higher. No one should have to live in fear of being fired from a job or denied a place to live simply for being themselves. Dignity and respect should never depend on who you are, who you love, or what zip code you call home.

I hope the Supreme Court justices and lawmakers in Ohio and Congress soon affirm basic respect for all LGBTQ people and against anti-LGBTQ discrimination. It’s the right thing to do.

Douglas Robinson lives in Columbus.