It's weird how dying makes people gay.
Just as with Sally Ride, the public response to the death of Sherman Hemsley has been accompanied by a discussion of his sexuality. The Advocate and Queerty both mention the longstanding gay rumors (the first I'm hearing of them, by the way) in posts about his death. Some random in the Talk section of his Wikipedia entry says, "It was an open secret that Hemsley was gay, but that can't be added to the article without a reliable reference." Some obits have opted to reporting that he leaves behind no wife or children, wink wink, nudge nudge.
My dad was pretty old and years ago he used to talk about Sherman Hemsley 'cause they were in the same age group. The other in his social group knew that Sherman was in several gay porn movies..that's why people knew he was gay It's just that old people don't really talk about that stuff and really who watches old gay porn from the 1950's!? It wasn't even in the box office anyway; just sold at the adult shops. P.S. my dad's not gay Sherman once worked at the same post office as him for a few months.
(There was no gay porn in the '50s. At least, not gay porn like that.)
So basically, who knows. Hemsley did have a regal air similar to that of effeminate Disney villains, and a kind of honey-coated flair to his voice. The Times obit contains a quote of his from 1996: "I'm nothing like [George Jefferson]. I don't slam doors in people's faces, and I'm not a bigot. I'm just an old hippie. You know - peace and love." If that's true and did spend his life closeted, at least he wasn't a hypocrite.