Dick Cheney's daughters in gay marriage feud
Mary Cheney accuses sister Liz of hypocrisy as she opposes same-sex marriage during her Wyoming Senate bid
DICK CHENEY'S two daughters are locked in an open and very personal feud over gay marriage, pitting one of the Republican Party's most prominent lesbians against her sister, who is seeking to become a candidate for the Senate.
Mary Cheney, 44, has been a long-standing and outspoken advocate of gay rights, and helped convert her staunchly conservative father, the former vice president, into becoming a supporter of same-sex marriage.
Now she has turned her fire on her elder sister, Liz, 47, who announced her opposition to gay marriage during a television interview as part of an effort to win a Senate seat in the conservative state of Wyoming.
What was once a private family disagreement spilled out into public view as Mary Cheney took to Facebook to accuse her sister of hypocrisy.
“Liz - this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree - you’re just wrong - and on the wrong side of history,” she wrote after watching her sister state her view on Fox News.
Mary Cheney posted a quote from her partner, Heather Poe, saying that the elder Cheney sister “didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us” when they wed last year in Washington DC - which along with 15 American states has legalised gay marrriage.
“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children,” Ms Poe wrote. “To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
The flare up is an unwelcome distraction for Liz Cheney as she tries to unseat Mike Enzi, Wyoming’s Republican senator, with an insurgent campaign fuelled by hard-line conservative anger against Washington.
She tried to play down the issue, saying in a statement: “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.”
Mr Cheney and his wife Lynne released a statement today saying they had sought to deal with the issue privately “and we are pained to see it become public”.
They said their daughter had “always believed in the traditional definition of marriage” but “always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect”.
Clearly aware of the risk that conservative hardliners would use that fact against Liz Cheney, they added: “Compassion is what 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”.
An Enzi aide said the senator’s office considered the Cheney disagreement “a family matter” and would not raise it as an issue during the campaign, although outside political groups may use it to try to question Ms Cheney’s conservative credentials.
A poll last week found Mr Enzi leading Ms Cheney by 52 points, but she has until August next year, when the party in Wyoming will vote on who should be its Senate candidate for election in November, to overturn his lead.
Bob Berry of Wisconsin's Cody-Big Horn Basin Tea Party said the issue was unlikely to cost her support among conservatives.
"I've looked into her eyes and seen her heart and believe what she says: she loves her sister and she doesn't believe in homosexual marriage and that's the end of it," he said.
Mr Cheney, who served for eight years under former President George W.Bush, has long been loathed by American liberals, but on the issue of gay marriage he has become an unexpected progressive, angering conservatives by announcing in 2000 that he would not oppose it.
The Cheney family's divide reflects ongoing angst on the issue of gay marriage within the Republican Party, said Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay marriage group.
"There are some principled and thoughtful discussions that are happening in Republican households around the country, it seems that those discussions are ongoing in the Cheney household," he said.
While polling shows a majority of Americans now support gay marriage - and that trend is even stronger among the young - the social conservatives of the Republican base remain staunchly opposed.
Mr Angelo said one of the main barriers to Republicans embracing the issue was the presidential primary system, which gives disproportionate power to conservatives in the early-voting states of Iowa and South Carolina.
The tally of Republicans in favour of gay marriage has grown incrementally in the last year and three of the party's senators now support the cause.
Like Mr Cheney, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio came around on the issue after learning that his own son, Will, was gay.
Mr Portman was one of 10 Republican senators to vote this month for legislation to ban employment discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.
While the bill cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate, Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to bring it to a vote.