November 17th, 2013
12:25 PM ET
9 years ago

Cheney sisters spar over same-sex marriage, parents weigh in

Updated 1:50 p.m. ET, 11/18/2013

(CNN) – One day after their daughters' quarrel over same-sex marriage burst into the political spotlight, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, defended their daughter Liz Cheney, saying she loves and respects her sister Mary, who's married to a woman.

"This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public," the Cheneys said in a statement.

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"Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage," the Cheneys added, saying Liz Cheney has "always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done."

"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," the statement concludes.

The recent dispute started when Liz Cheney, who's making a GOP primary challenge for a U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming next year, said Sunday morning that she supports some rights for same-sex partners but does not favor the right for same-sex couples to legally wed.

"I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue in which we disagree," Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday."

Mary Cheney responded Sunday not long after the interview.

"Liz – this isn't just an issue on which we disagree – you're just wrong – and on the wrong side of history," she posted on Facebook.

Cheney says daughter Liz will win Senate bid

Mary Cheney married her longtime partner, Heather Poe, last year in Washington D.C., which legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The couple have two children together – a son, Samuel, and a daughter, Sarah. Liz Cheney did not attend the wedding.

Mary also shared a post by her wife, who said she was offended by Liz Cheney's latest comments:

I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."

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 now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least

I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.

I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.

Mary Cheney added: "Couldn't have said it better myself."

Responding to the comments, Cheney said Monday morning she treats her sister with compassion.

"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," Liz Cheney told CNN anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper.

Liz Cheney asserts her Wyoming roots in first ad

Mary Cheney's sexual orientation was known during her father's first run in 2000 for vice president, though her family generally declined to discuss her personal life on the campaign trail.

Dick Cheney has said in the past that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, though like his daughter Liz he says regulations should be handled at the state level.

Tapper asked Cheney last month in an interview for CNN's "The Lead" whether the family disagreement might create awkward Christmas table conversation.

"My position on that issue is well known, I enunciated it in 2000 in a debate with Joe Lieberman. It hasn't changed. And I'll let my daughters speak for themselves," the former vice president said.

A majority of Americans voters–56%–say they support or would support allowing same-sex marriage in their state, while 36% oppose, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in late September.

When considering Republicans' views only, the numbers flip. Fifty-eight percent oppose laws that legalize same-sex marriage, while 36% favor such laws.

The American Principles Fund, an independent political group defending Wyoming's incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, launched an ad last month attacking Liz Cheney for supporting some same-sex rights. Wyoming is one of 34 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The ad said she opposed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and applauded the State Department's decision to grant benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

Cheney said Sunday that Enzi should "renounce" the ad for being "gutter politics." She defended her view on the State Department and explained that she opposed the constitutional amendment because she believes same-sex marriage decisions should be made on the state level.

"I don't believe we ought to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. If people are in a same-sex relationship and they want their partner to be able to have health benefits or be designated as a beneficiary on their life insurance, there's no reason we shouldn't do that," she said.

"I also don't support amending the Constitution on this issue. I do believe it's an issue that's got to be left up to the states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."

When Cheney voiced her stance on same-sex marriage in late August, her sister took to Facebook to say Liz Cheney was "dead wrong" on the issue.

Asked about the dispute, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "This is a tough issue, and can be a tough issue, for a lot of families."

"It is a very American value to pursue equality for everyone," he added.

- CNN’s Jake Tapper and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2014 • Liz Cheney • Same-sex marriage • Wyoming
soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. Dr. Ray

    As a straight male, I'm at a loss to understand why some straight people–Liz Cheney included–think their straight relationships are diluted or degraded by accepting equality with others. The same way a white person's rights are not not diluted but enhanced when non-whites are granted equality, all relationships are lifted up when LGBT relationships are affirmed with equal worth and dignity. I wish bigoted straight people would stop speaking for all straight people. There are many of us straight people who'd like to say to Liz what her sister Mary said: "“Liz – this isn't just an issue on which we disagree – you're just wrong – and on the wrong side of history."

    November 17, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. g

    republicans believe in freedom ,they will just choose the ones you can have

    November 17, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  3. straighttalk

    In all due respect there is no such thing as same sex marriage. Marriage is between a man and a women that it it. So all you gays and lesbians, stop mocking marriage. The best you ever can be is partners and that is it.

    November 17, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. navaJohn

    Please, no more Cheney's in our politics.

    November 17, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. Family Politics

    I'm seeing a reality tv show develop right before my eyes... Now I know where the bad ideas come from. Garbage politics garbage tv and the families that take us there. So Kardashian of them. Dick needs to spank his daughter Liz and send her to bed without dessert until she learns how to be nice.

    November 17, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. whatashock

    "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage." Newsflash, marriage is older than your religion.

    November 17, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  7. Jim

    Every country seems to have their extreme party, some successfully take over the country, some don't. In Saudi Arabia, you will get lashed and jailed for kissing in public or driving while being a women god forbid. The extreme there have held power. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt tried implementing strict Muslim teachings to law but the majority would not stand for it. Greece has the Golden Dawn which took advantage of the turmoil and distrust with the crop of the mill politicians and won more seats only to have their extreme methods be brought to public attention and now they are facing trial over it. The Taliban have their extreme roots in Afghan and even Pakistan, whether majority or minority they push their rules onto everyone. And finally, we have the tea party. They took advantage in 2010, tried shutting down the government once, and then succeeded the second time. They push their extreme views onto everyone whether they are minority or majority, they don't care. These southern extremists go beyond religion, even calling the pope too liberal. They will no doubt always be on the wrong side of history but why can't we learn from the past instead of suffer in repeating it, only to be read about by the future generation one day as they shake their heads in disbelief by what they read, while in the present we can't believe these extremists continue to gain power and the audacity in which they do it, through hate mongering, extreme misuse of filibusters, and gerrymandering.

    November 17, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  8. Jack Brent Lawless

    There is no such thing as SAME SEX marriage, read the BIBLE those of you that can read and understand.

    November 17, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  9. jazzophile

    I find it a bit hard to believe there are Americans out there who still care what Dick Cheney, or his daughter Liz, might say.

    November 17, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  10. RJ in CHWY

    Maybe Liz should start a show – Everybody Hates Liz. It could be the new reality show. She will not be successful in her bid for our senate seat. She should be embarrassed but I think she is just too ambitious to care.

    November 17, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. Liz the First

    We fought a civil war over some states not wanting to recognize people's basic rights. if this is truly the UNITED states, then what's fair and right in one state should be fair and right in all of them. discrimination is wrong, period. and 'traditional' marriage used to be a man, a few wives, and some concubines on the side. slavery was a tradition, too. we grew past it. just because something is a tradition doesn't mean it should never change when people come to realize it hurts people and isn't basically right or fair. people that opposed to same-sex marriage shouldn't marry someone of the same sex. problem solved!

    November 17, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  12. Bill

    Politics before family, real classy – so much for FAMILY values unless the conflict with your political ambitions.

    November 17, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  13. Me 3

    Typical GOP. Spouting holier than thou ethics that they themselves or their families cannot abide by. The GOP is the party of haters. They will always find someone or some cause to hate.

    November 17, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  14. kenny

    the simple problem is people have different definitions of marriage. some see it as a religious bond that can't be broken "til death do us part" and all. others... that may be religious... see it as a contract that can be ended if things aren't going well. Gay people should be allowed to get civil marriage and if some religions accept it they can get religious married too. but banning them is simply wrong and those that support banning are wrong.

    November 17, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  15. Log Cabin

    Republicans are anti-love.

    November 17, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  16. JPX

    As usual Liz, a republican, is on the wrong side of every social issue. How disgusting that she stabbed her sister in the back for politics.

    November 17, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    "Liz is the new generation of GOP,"? No, I don't think so. Sounds like same ol same ol to me – small minded, ultra-conservative, far-right Christian.

    November 17, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  18. justasportsnut

    I'm not surprised that at least one of the Cheney daugthers' adopted their father's rabid dysfunction. Not surprised at all.

    November 17, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  19. Mr Duckworth

    Fascinating – Check this out, the Pro Gay marriage sister is allowed to believe how she personally wants to and that's her belief, and that's Ok – but the Pro Traditional marriage- biological possible to have children marriage, sister is not allowed to believe how she personally wants to, because she believes in traditional marriage as being unique- this personal belief is "Offensive" to a few people – so they try to silence it – What's up with that??? This is not about FREEDOM or Civil rights (blacks say it's offensive to them to compare this to the civil rights movement – this is simply about a very small group of people trying to impose their new definition of the work marriage onto everyone else. People with back bones – stand up and stand your ground. If this is about tax benefits – as Suzie Ormon says, then change Tax laws – but this is not marriage sorry – it's just not. A ball is round, that's the definition, it some people want a ball to now be considered as also as square, then find another word for that, but don't redefine "Ball"… People with back bones stand up..

    November 17, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  20. Scott

    Nice family values Liz!! Throw your sister under the bus to get elected!

    November 17, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  21. noAd

    Kinda hard to believe that a woman is running for Senate who does not believe, down to her marrow, in equality under the law for all. How can she love her sister and not believe she should have the same rights? I just don't get it on a really funadamental, human level...

    November 17, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  22. jordan

    Politics before family, that is consistent with Republican values. She wants to get elected at any cost, and will say what she needs to in order to make that happen, end of story.

    November 17, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  23. KellyinBoston

    I'm clearly with Mary Cheney on this issue. I feel bad that Liz feels that she needs to take such a negative approach to her sister's family in making this political run. I think that Liz will win. I just hope that she can live with the damage that she's done to her family afterward. If she's selfish enough, she probably can.

    November 17, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  24. timothy

    The Tea Party Birthers have made it so every Republican candidate must be a raving loony or they'll have no chance with the base in a primary.

    November 17, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  25. Roberto

    Liz has an opinion and so does Mary. What da problem be.

    November 17, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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