The inter-Cheney war over gay marriage hasn't ended just yet. Former vice president Dick Cheney — torn between one daughter's love and the other's ambitions — issued a statement on Monday that landed heavily on the side of the latter.
Liz Cheney is running for Senate in Wyoming, a state that, as of July, opposed gay marriage by a wide margin. Over the weekend, as we reported, she and her sister Mary — an out and married gay woman — got in a public dispute over Liz's rejection of legalized same-sex marriage on a Fox News broadcast. "This is just an issue on which we disagree," Liz told the network in rejecting the practice, prompting Mary to reply, "[T]his isn't just an issue on which we disagree — you're just wrong — and on the wrong side of history." In a separate message on Facebook, Mary's wife, Heather Poe, pointed out that Liz offered her unreserved happiness at their wedding.
Last month, Dick Cheney was content to have his daughters "speak for themselves," as he told CNN's Jake Tapper at the time, clearly not willing to go much further. In the wake of his daughters' dispute, though, he and his wife Lynne didn't have much choice but to weigh in.
Statement from Dick & Lynne Cheney on gay marriage pic.twitter.com/poXjyqVpZg— Luke Johnson (@johnson) November 18, 2013
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. … 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.
That statement makes it clear that Cheney, an on-the-record supporter of gay marriage, is on Team Liz. His words echo hers; she told Tapper that, "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." The condescending reference to compassion that both use is likely an effort to explain to a conservative electorate what Heather and Mary saw as happiness.
The message they hope to send to conservative voters is the only reason the issue came up at all. A conservative PAC supporting the incumbent, Sen. Mike Enzi, released an ad in October suggested that Liz's opposition to gay marriage came with significant qualifiers. The Fox News appearance is part of her effort to distance herself from the (admittedly timid) olive branch she offered on the topic in 2009, as seen at right, when she suggested that states should be allowed to pass their own laws on the practice and that the State Department decision to extend benefits to same-sex partners was warranted. "My family has been very clear on this," she said. "We think that freedom means freedom for everybody."
Less so around election time, it seems. For what it's worth, there's at least one thing that Wyoming Republicans like less than gay marriage, which they oppose 62 to 15: Liz Cheney, who trails Enzi 69 to 17.