Things have become rather heated in the Cheney family this week as Liz Cheney has reiterated her opposition to same-sex marriage, while her lesbian sister Mary and her wife have come out swinging with a scathing rebuke.
Liz Cheyney is currently running as a Republican candidate to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate and is preparing for an election race next year. As such, Liz has been giving a number of press interviews as she attempts to solidify her platform, and during one such interview on Fox News Sunday, Liz Cheney told host Chris Wallace that she only supports the so-called “traditional definition of marriage,” and that this is an area where she and her sister Mary “disagree.”
Mary Cheney of course married her same-sex partner Heather Poe in 2012. After Liz’s comments on Fox, Mary soon posted a reply on Facebook, saying, “[T]his isn’t just an issue on which we disagree — you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”
Poe, Mary’s wife, also took to Facebook, writing that “I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.”
This may be in reference to the heat Liz Cheney has taken for relocating from Virginia to Wyoming in order to run in the Senate race and capitalize on her father’s political history there.
Poe also noted, “Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012, she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
This very public feud has now escalated to the point where Liz and Mary’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, has felt the need to issue a public statement:
“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public. Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter, and Liz’s many kindnesses shouldn’t be used to distort her position.”
Dick Cheney, who is on record as supporting same-sex marriage, appears keen to shield daughter Liz from criticism surrounding her stance against same-sex marriage, and there is a not so veiled rebuke to Mary that she shouldn’t be attempting to paint Liz’s personal happiness for her sister as a suggestion of support for same-sex marriage and therein duplicity over her public stance.
It is certainly true that Liz Cheney’s position isn’t new. In 2009 Liz went on record as saying she personally opposes same-sex marriage but that she believes it should be decided by each individual state — which actually puts her in the moderate Republican camp. Nevertheless, it isn’t winning her that much support.
Liz is campaigning against incumbent Senator Mike Enzi, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage. Liz’s sister being a lesbian has been used by Enzi’s supporters to suggest that Liz will inevitably go soft on the issue of marriage equality. In a state where, as of a July 2013 Public Policy Polling survey, 57% of the public think same-sex marriage should be illegal, this issue is unfortunately important.
There’s also a broader divide here. Both Liz and Mary are Republicans. That doesn’t look set to change. Yet here we see a political family divided by a fundamental issue: whether Mary should have the right to marry her life partner. This speaks to the wider battle currently going on in America where even an open-mindedness to same-sex marriage, among many other issues, does to some conservative minds automatically disqualify a candidate. The Republicans have been warned by many within their own ranks that to continue down this road will mean the party eventually becomes too far to the ideological right to appeal to mainstream America, yet being anti-gay or at least anti-gay marriage still seems to be part of the basic selection criteria.
What is so sad about this very public spat is that Liz, instead of looking to distance herself from her sister’s marriage, could have been the one to stand as a candidate for the Wyoming Senate seat on a position, if not of acceptance, then at least a willingness to look at the issue of marriage equality; she could have marked herself out as a fair and even minded candidate and appealed to the growing support — even in Wyoming — for marriage equality recognition. As it is now, Liz Cheney’s position isn’t, at least in appearance, all that far from Senator Mike Enzi’s, and if recent polling figures are correct, it’s doing nothing to help her chances of unseating him.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney is quoted as saying. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”
Liz can only lose on the subject of gay marriage, and even if it doesn’t cost her in the immediate political sense, in terms of at least one personal relationship, it seems she’s already lost.
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