Once crucial members of the close family unit he campaigned with, the daughters of former US Vice President Dick Cheney are now locked in a public feud over the issue of gay marriage.
Mary Cheney, who is gay, married her long-term partner Heather Poe in 2012; the couple have two children. Yet her sister, Liz Cheney, is running as a conservative Republican candidate for a US Senate seat in Wyoming, where their father was formerly a Congressman.
On Sunday, Liz Cheney, 47, told Fox News that she believed in the “traditional definition of marriage”, and that same-sex marriage was “just an area where we [she and Mary] disagree”. Ms Poe quickly took to Facebook to criticise her sister-in-law, writing: “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.”
Mary Cheney, 44, later shared her wife’s post on her own Facebook feed, adding: “Liz – this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree – you’re just wrong and on the wrong side of history.”
The sisters, who appeared almost inseparable as they campaigned beside their father when he ran as George W Bush’s running mate, have reportedly not spoken since August, when Liz Cheney said publicly that she was “not pro-gay marriage”. At the time, Mary Cheney wrote on Facebook that she loved her sister, but thought she was “dead wrong”.
In an email to The New York Times this week, Liz Cheney wrote: “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 conflict is said to be painful for Mr Cheney, who is eager for his elder daughter to win a seat in the US Senate, but is also known for being further ahead than many in his party on gay marriage.
As long ago as the 2000 presidential campaign, he made clear that he personally disagreed with Bush over a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Mr Cheney and his wife, Lynne, are thought to be planning to celebrate Thanksgiving next week with Mary and Ms Poe, but Christmas with Liz in Wyoming. The couple released a statement on Monday, saying: “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.”
The feud is also emblematic of cultural tensions within the Republican Party, which hopes to appease its increasingly conservative core membership. Liz Cheney moved to Wyoming from Virginia last year to run against the incumbent GOP Senator, Michael Enzi, on a conservative platform designed to appeal to Tea Party voters. Although the primary vote will not be held until August 2014, the campaign is already contentious. Ms Cheney has been accused not only of being insufficiently opposed to same-sex marriage, but also of being an interloper interested in the red state seat only to progress her political career.
Her first campaign TV advertisement, which debuted last week, highlights the Cheney family’s Wyoming connections. Yet an early poll conducted last month by a conservative group, The American Principles Fund, showed Ms Cheney more than 50 points behind her rival.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader. I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that,” Mary Cheney said, adding that the two could not reconcile until her sister altered those positions.
Last week, Hawaii became the 15th US state to legalise gay marriage, while the Governor of Illinois is expected to sign a bill this week, permitting same-sex couples to wed in his state.In October New Jersey saw its first same-sex weddings after its Republican Governor, Chris Christie, dropped his opposition to the change in legislation; Christie is presently considered the frontrunner for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination.Reuse content