More than 30 doors were erected Friday in Market Square, each decorated differently but sending the same message: "Come out for equality."
The Downtown art installation was set up for several hours to celebrate National Coming Out Day, an event started in 1988 to celebrate men and women who publicly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
It's an event that is observed around the world, with many people choosing Oct. 11 as the day to "come out" to their families, their friends or their coworkers, said Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, which organizes the annual Pittsburgh Pride events.
This year, for the first time, the Delta Foundation decided to celebrate National Coming Out Day in a public and visible way, Ms. Bryan said.
They began planning this summer and invited organizations including Alcoa, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society to decorate doors embracing Pittsburgh's LGBT community. The door theme is a nod to the idea that a person who announces he is gay "comes out of the closet."
"I think the message is: Obviously, the LGBT community is very strong here in Pittsburgh, and want to be included and want to be treated as an equal member of society," Ms. Bryan said.
That message about the importance of equality was emphasized in signs posted around Market Square pointing out that Pennsylvania is the only northeastern state without legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions, and that no statewide protection exists against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
More employers -- and Ms. Bryan pointed to Highmark and Deloitte, two companies that decorated doors, as examples -- are taking steps to make sure they offer a welcoming environment for their employees as a way to create a better workplace.
"I think that once employees specifically realize that they don't have to hide who they are, or watch what pronouns they use when they talk about their partners, they can then be better employees," she said. "Because they're not constantly worried about that."
As the lunch hour began Friday, people walked through Market Square, looking at the decorated doors, whose designers represented a wide spectrum of companies, organizations and government groups in Pittsburgh.
There were doors decorated by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, by (Pittsburgh)Red and one by The ScareHouse of Etna, which also sent a person in a sinister-looking bunny costume and carrying an axe to Market Square.
"We are a very gay-lesbian friendly haunted house," said Katie Dudas, the haunt manager, adding that many of their approximately 140 employees identify as LGBT.
Another door, created by an LGBT group at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System, was painted in regular camouflage on one side and in rainbow camouflage on the other, and passersby could post messages of support using paper dog tags. The LGBT group, with 25 members, was created about a year ago for employees, registered nurse Mark Thompson said.
He called the doors event "an educational opportunity."
Tricia Forsythe, 33, of East Pittsburgh, who was visiting Market Square on her lunch break, said she thought the doors sent a message of "very positive support."
"I'm always a big supporter of the gay community," she said. "I think love is love. They need to be let alone."
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707. First Published October 11, 2013 8:00 PM