|CNN Presenter, Anderson Cooper [Photo:Reuters]|
One of the biggest names in US TV journalism, Anderson Cooper, has confirmed that he is gay. But should regular professionals come out to those they work with?
Long before Anderson Cooper confirmed it, evidence of his sexuality was apparent for anyone who cared to look. He was photographed on holiday with the owner of a popular New York City gay bar.
In 2007, a man in a Cooper mask was featured on the cover of Out Magazine, which named Cooper as the second-most powerful gay man in America.
Indeed, in an era when the US president endorses gay marriage and the most popular TV chat show hostess in the US, Ellen Degeneres, is a lesbian, there seems to be little reason to make an official declaration of sexuality in a public forum.
So why does it matter that Cooper is now "officially" out?
"In a perfect world he should be able to go about his business and it not be an issue," says Canadian broadcaster Rick Mercer, host of CBC's The Rick Mercer Report.
"But there's no doubt about it: him acknowledging that he is a gay person who is successful and happy and loved means an awful lot."
Mercer made waves last year when he released a YouTube video calling on gay adults to come out as a way to fight back against bullying and provide a positive example for gay children.
"If you have a life that's a public life, whether you choose it or not, or a position of responsibility, it makes a difference to be out at that level, whether you're Anderson Cooper or the chief of police," he says.
But in 2012 how easy is it for that chief of police - or even the assistant manager of a FootLocker or a call-centre worker - to come out?
In a survey of gay employees conducted in 2011, the Center for Talent and Innovation found that about half of respondents were closeted at work.
"The sad reality is that it's still perfectly legal in the US to be fired for your sexual orientation in 29 states; [the] same is true in 34 states for gender identity," says Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
"The laws give licence to discriminate and there are real risks for people's careers and their livelihoods."
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