Cheneys denounce Kerry for invoking daughter's sexuality

Click to follow
The Independent US

John Kerry found himself distracted by an unexpected political firestorm after Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, and his wife fiercely denounced him yesterday for invoking the sexuality of their daughter, Mary, in the waning minutes of Wednesday night's presidential debate.

John Kerry found himself distracted by an unexpected political firestorm after Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, and his wife fiercely denounced him yesterday for invoking the sexuality of their daughter, Mary, in the waning minutes of Wednesday night's presidential debate.

Mary has publicly acknowledged her lesbianism, serves as an advisor to her father's campaign and belongs to a straight-gay Republican alliance. Her parents accused the Democrat challenger of stooping to political trickery by referring to her while answering a question about homosexuality.

When the moderator asked both candidates whether they thought being gay or lesbian was a matter of choice, Mr Bush responded that he did not know. Mr Kerry gave a slightly longer answer, which has got him into enough trouble that his campaign was obliged to issue a statement trying to clarify it.

"We're all God's children," Mr Kerry said on the stage at Arizona State University. "And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was. She's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice."

Addressing a rally of Republican supporters just after the debate, Lynne Cheney fired the first salvo, although it is unclear whether she was prompted to do so by the campaign or was spontaneously departing from prepared remarks. Mr Kerry is "not a good man", she said, and he was guilty of a "cheap and tawdry political trick". Her husband was not far behind her. At a rally in Florida, he intoned: "You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected. And I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father."

It was the first time that gay lifestyle issues, notably the struggle over gay marriage, had surfaced in any significant way during the campaign.

Mr Bush is supporting an amendment to the Constitution to bar states from legalising gay marriage. Mr Kerry is also opposed to full marriage for gay and lesbian couples, but does not support amending the Constitution and said that he would leave it to individual states to decide what they should do.

Not that this abrupt shower of sparks over the vice-presidential daughter is likely to take the debate forward. And while core conservative voters may be energised by the spat, most experts think it unlikely that the charges being laid against Mr Kerry will change the votes of very many people.

"The entire exchange solidifies both candidates' support," suggested Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant in Washington. "But it doesn't move any voters. If same-sex marriage was your issue, then you decided who you were going to vote for a long time ago."

John Edwards, Mr Kerry's vice-presidential running mate, also mentioned Ms Cheney during his face-off with her father two weeks ago. Barely a ripple came from it. "You can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter," he said in the debate. "They embrace her. It's a wonderful thing." To which Mr Cheney thanked the Senator for his "kind words". Even Mr Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, has been drawn into the furore. Speaking of Ms Cheney, she said: "She's overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion."

In his statement, issued on Thursday, Mr Kerry said: "I love my daughters. They love their daughter. I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue."

Comments