This is one in a series of profiles marking the 60th anniversary of the ACLU of Kentucky’s founding. Each week through December 2015 we will highlight the story of one member, client, case, board or staff member that has been an integral part of our organization’s rich history.
“I think what the ACLU does is a lot of the hard stuff. They get right in there in the middle of it. They’re not scared to back down from a fight.” -Erin Kennedy
ACLU-KY board member Erin Kennedy got her start with the organization as a master’s student, when she chose to complete her practicum under then-Executive Director Beth Wilson. Later, she joined the organization again as a legal intern, and then accepted an invitation to join the board. Kennedy is beginning her fourth year as a board member and chairs an ad hoc committee about trending issues that the ACLU-KY may find itself involved with in the future.
Kennedy is passionate about many of the ACLU-KY’s campaign issues–particularly abolition of the death penalty. She has worked with others to find ways to make the abolition issue more accessible to conservatives, such as by explaining its financial implications. “The death penalty, that’s something I’ve been passionate about since before I started working with the ACLU-KY,” she said. “It’s something that I think affects our nation as a whole, the character of our nation, to say that we will kill people [for] committing crimes and some not even committing crimes.”
Kennedy has also worked on civil liberties issues that reach beyond the ACLU-KY’s core campaigns. As chair of the organization’s trending issues committee, she keeps an eye out for government abuses involving new technologies like drones and smartphones. “The Supreme Court justices have started to mostly rule in our favor, saying [those things] do have to do with the [Fourth] Amendment,” she said. Kennedy explained that she views privacy and technology issues as an important, upcoming topic for the ACLU-KY.
At events for issues ranging from immigrants’ rights to LGBT fairness, Kennedy has witnessed demonstrations by opposing parties that occasionally got scary. “Sometimes the opposition can be loud and offensive, but in the long run you usually come down on the right side of history,” she said. “It really makes you feel like what you’re doing is right and good.”