Gingrich: Newt's Gay Sister Gets out Front

Article excerpt

WHEN HUNDREDS OF gay and lesbian activists march on Capitol Hill this week to demand support for AIDS funding, Newt Gingrich's half sister, Candace, will be at the head of the pack. A 28-year-old computer technician from Harrisburg, Pa., Candace Gingrich has long had a relaxed, live-and-let-live relationship with her conservative sibling. But she is fast becoming a political symbol. As ever, the religious right is determined to make homosexuality a wedge issue. And the gay-rights movement wants to use Candace Gingrich to fight back.

A cheery woman who relishes playing amateur rugby, Candace has had little to do with politics -- until now. Although she came out to her family about five years ago, her new public profile didn't emerge until after the November election, when a reporter asked Candace about her sexuality. "I had a short little mental struggle," she recalls. "But I'm not ashamed, and I just told the truth." Sensing a public-relations payoff, gay activists began courting her. "Candace is refreshing," says Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the nation's largest gay lobby. "She's witty and speaks right to Middle America." In January, after joining the family to celebrate her half brother's swearing-in in Washington, Candace flew to Chicago for a gay political ball. And she recently agreed to be the spokesperson for the Campaign Fund's National Coming Out Day.

Candace's mother, meanwhile, worries that her daughter is being used to hector her son. "She doesn't know what it's all about," Kathleen Gingrich told Newsweek last week. "I don't mind her being gay, but don't start on Newtie! He's got enough on his shoulders. …