Just when you think you know a person ... There are few local political figures more ubiquitous than Sheila Kennedy. The former director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, corporation counsel under Mayor Bill Hudnut and Republican candidate for Congress now serves on the faculty of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs of Indiana University, Indianapolis. Far from hiding in the shadows of academia, Kennedy still keeps a high profile, contributing regular columns of unconventional political thought to The Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Business Journal. But if you thought you knew everything there was to know about Sheila, think again.
After what she describes as "years of denial, internal struggle with my emotions and with my very identity," Kennedy is coming out of the closet. As a Democrat. In the wake of Kennedy asking for her first-ever Democrat ballot in last spring"s primary election - she says her precinct committeewoman almost passed out - Indiana"s Stonewall Democrats are celebrating the occasion this Friday, Oct. 11, on National Coming Out Day. The Stonewall Democrats is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Democrats and their supporters. Kennedy laughs at the coming-out analogy, but she is quite serious about the reasons for leaving the GOP. "I didn"t change, the party did," she says. "When I became a Republican, it was a party of limited government, which meant - among other things - keeping out of people"s private lives. "Now it"s crony capitalists on one side, looking for special favors instead of a free market. And on the other side, the Christian right controls maybe 60 percent of the party positions, and they want to tell me to worship their god and they want to control my procreation. This is not the Republican Party of Goldwater." It is no coincidence that the official celebration of Kennedy"s switch is a benefit for Stonewall Democrats. Kennedy has several gay family members, writes a regular column for Indiana Word, a local newspaper devoted to the gay and lesbian community, and once ran for Congress - as a Republican - on a gay rights platform. The GOP"s chilly reception to gays and lesbians contributed to her decision to leave the party. "While no party has a corner on the market of homophobia, I don"t appreciate a party that officially treats gay people like second class citizens," she says. For more information about the "Coming Out" celebration, call 767-2762 or email@example.com