In or out? Court case on job bias casts pall on LGBT fests

Legal Compliance

National Coming Out Day festivities were tempered this year by anxiety that some LGBT folk may have to go back into the closet so they can make a living, depending on what the Supreme Court decides about workplace discrimination law.

But the mere fact that words like “transgender” are being uttered before the nation’s highest court gives some supporters of LGBT workplace rights hope that the pendulum will swing in their favor.

“I want all members of our community to feel supported by the government, and often for a lot of us and a lot of friends of mine, it’s the first time that they feel represented,” said Jessica Goldberg, a bisexual senior at the University of Colorado Denver.

Still, for many, the arguments showed the continuing relevance of National Coming Out Day, first observed in 1988 and marked every Oct. 11, though observances happen over several days. That includes Philadelphia’s annual OutFest, held Sunday this year and billed as the largest National Coming Out Day event.

Coming Out Day and, by extension, events like OutFest aim to show that coming out of the closet helps individuals and the larger community win visibility and acceptance.

As music echoed in the packed streets of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood and smoke from food carts hung overhead, Priscilla Gonzalez waited for friends on a stoop and pondered the timing of the Supreme Court arguments — and what she sees as a nefarious “military tactic” of dividing Republican Party opponents to weaken them.

“It’s true that we are focused on trying to protect our group,” said Gonzalez, a New York City resident attending her first OutFest. “Because we feel so threatened, we start to divide more, and I think that division brings disruptions.”

Emotionally, the victory for LGBT marriage equality was “huge,” said Susan Horowitz, publisher and editor of Between the Lines, an LGBT newspaper in Michigan. But the workplace discrimination case, with its legal ramifications, is bigger, she said.

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