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Published: Friday, 4/16/2004

Professor recalls her split from GOP

When Sheila Suess Kennedy was chosen to lead the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, a local alternative newspaper announced the appointment with the headline, "ICLU taken over by card-carrying Republican."

Every day of her tenure thereafter, someone asked, "What's a Republican doing at the ACLU?" she recounted during a taping of The Editors television program.

"Which of course displays a real lack of understanding of what the civil liberties union is and to a lesser extent what traditional Republicanism was all about," Ms. Kennedy said.

She joined the party in the era of Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate. She is not a card-carrying Republican today.

"George W. Bush has pushed me out of the party," Ms. Kennedy said.

She said the party she joined stood for free trade, free markets, fiscal integrity, and a respect for individual rights and constitutional values.

"All of those things are gone," Ms. Kennedy said. "The party I joined has largely become the party of the plutocrats and the theocrats. Those of us who joined because we believed in limited government are increasingly unwelcome."

Ms. Kennedy, author of the book, What's a Nice Republican Girl Like Me Doing in the ACLU?" teaches law and public policy at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She was questioned by Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade.

The Editors will be broadcast at 8:30 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

Ms. Kennedy spoke earlier this month at a forum at the University of Toledo sponsored, in part, by the Log Cabin Republicans of Northwest Ohio, which is made up of gay and lesbian Republicans.

She said there are churches and synagogues that perform marriages of same-sex couples. What business is it of government, she asked, to say it will recognize unions solemnized by some religious institutions and not others.

"What government has an obligation to do is to take a look at contractual relationships between individuals and give the same civil rights to those across the board," Ms. Kennedy said. "In other words, to treat similarly situated citizens similarly. I don't think government needs to get into the business of religion."

America's Patriot Act has not increased the security of the United States, "and it's very dangerous," Ms. Kennedy said. "If terrorists succeed in making us something other than the Americans we are, they've won."

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