Attached, the intro to a recent story on Anderson Cooper 360 about the hate-motivated murder of an openly gay teenager. You may also recall that last month, Cooper was nominated for an award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for a story he did on the plight of homeless gay teens. The difficulties and discrimination faced by gay youths is clearly a subject that Cooper feels strongly about, and his dedication to fighting it is to be admired (and not, as we maybe occasionally are guilty of, mocked). So some might ask why Cooper himself still isn't public about his own sexual orientation, which might lead to him becoming a role model to the millions of young people struggling with discrimination who don't read Gawker. But Cooper might be on his way out of the closet! Sort of!

AfterElton's Christie Keith identifies a new-ish trend-ish thing among gay celebrities that she calls "inching out of the closet." The perfect example: Neil Patrick Harris, who was openly gay to anyone who met him, but who didn't come out "publicly" until his publicist inexplicably denied the "rumor." Harris went public in People shortly afterwards, to the surprise of very few people, and with no harm to his career. Sir Ian McKellen did a similar thing, but it took him a couple more decades. Jodie Foster and David Hyde Pierce still haven't gone explicitly "public," though they have at least acknowledged having same-sex "partners."

The debate is whether famous people owe it to "the movement" to work to advance national tolerance, perhaps at the expense of their privacy and even careers. There's not a particularly good way to answer that question, but with each celeb to do it, it seems to become a bit easier for the next one. And the fact is that Cooper is already obviously, openly working for acceptance among mainstream America of their gay family and neighbors.

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But, as Keith says: "There is nothing more strongly correlated with increased support of gay rights among straight people, from marriage to adoption to opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, than one simple thing: knowing someone who is gay."

Which is why we are pretty sure Coop will drop the last vestiges of the "act" fairly soon.

And we're sorry we made fun of him so much. Except for the time he acted all scared of Kelly Ripa.

Inching Out of the Closet [AfterElton]