November 20, 2013

Cheney family feud mirrors Republican fight on gay marriage

Matea Gold
The Washington Post

And Sean Sullivan

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, on Monday jumped into a bitter public clash between their two daughters over gay marriage, an anguished personal fight that reflects a broader debate within the Republican Party over allowing same-sex couples to marry.

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Elizabeth Cheney, left, and Mary Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne

The Cheneys defended their eldest daughter, Liz Cheney, a U.S. Senate candidate in Wyoming, who on Sunday reaffirmed her opposition to same-sex marriage. And they expressed dismay that their younger daughter, Mary Cheney, and her spouse chose to publicly express their anger about her stance.

“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public,” Dick and Lynne Cheney said in a statement. “Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage.”

The public eruption of the internal Cheney family drama gave airing to the struggle within the GOP over gay marriage, which is rapidly gaining legal status and wider public acceptance.


Some influential party strategists and top GOP donors have rallied around efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, garnering support from the likes of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Earlier this year, more than 100 Republicans signed a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to declare that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry.

Public surveys show GOP attitudes about same-sex marriage are changing, albeit at a much slower pace than the overall population.

In a March Post-ABC poll, 34 percent of Republicans said they believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry, up from 22 percent in 2009. Among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents under 50 years old, the support for gay marriage was much higher, with 52 percent backing it.

“When you look at the question of same-sex marriage, there is a consistent trend that more and more people are becoming supportive of it,” particularly younger GOP voters, said Republican strategist Liz Mair, a member of the board of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry. “That does tell you something about where the future of the issue is going and where candidates would be best positioned to be electorally on it.”

But gay marriage remains a deeply polarizing issue among social conservatives, who are key players in the party and exert strong sway in GOP primary elections. In Wyoming, a conservative super PAC called American Principles Fund ran a television ad for three weeks this fall noting that Cheney is opposed to a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

In Wyoming, where Cheney is taking on incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, some party strategists doubted that the topic would be a deciding factor in the August 2014 primary, but noted the public spat threatened to overshadow other issues.

Bill Novotny, a veteran Republican strategist with ties to both candidates who is neutral in the race, said he saw the issue as “more of a distraction than a complication” since Cheney and Enzi have similar positions on same-sex marriage.

Cheney’s campaign is “losing valuable time trying to put this spat to rest when they should be articulating their reasons why Wyoming needs to give Mike Enzi a pink slip,” Novotny said.

The back-and-forth began Sunday when Liz Cheney appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where she reiterated her opposition to same-sex marriage, telling host Chris Wallace that she holds a different view on the subject than her younger sister, Mary, who married her longtime partner Heather Poe in 2012.

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