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. Louis Merriken

    I wish ALL the Cheney's would just go away!

    November 18, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. cg

    Rich, if you marry in your chosen church but do not have a license from the government, you are not legally married. Now, if you want "some sort of marriage" you can certainly do that without a license, but it is not legal. Secondly, procreation is not the basis of all Christian marriage. I have a wonderful marriage, am Christian, and have never born children. Likely you are describing YOUR "marriage" but you know nothing about those of others.

    November 18, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. alon

    All these non stories about non issues.

    Where is the reporting about the Liar-In-Chief and his absolute failings as a President, a Leader, a Unifier?

    November 18, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. DJones

    Anyone who actually believes that two women and can get together and have children is shockingly sick.

    November 18, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. Tim

    Normal (adj.): conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
    Percentage of population that is homosexual: US Census (2000): 1%; Gallup: 3.5%.
    First standard deviation: 68 %
    Second standard deviation: 95 %
    Beyond the second standard deviation = statistically unusual; that is, not normal.
    Ergo, homosexuality = fringe outlier; not normal.

    I don't have a problem with gay civil unions, but the notion that it is "normal" is idiotic at best and Orwellian Newspeak at worst.

    November 18, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Vicki

    Sanely Insane. I respect your opinion. Consider this, the MABLA (association in this country that believe men should be able to have sex with boys of any age) also agree with you. They too believe that the government should play no role in sexual behaviors, period. Hmm, a bit of a moral dilemma don't you agree?. Legally a dog can be defined by many things that provide say.. the human society with guidelines needed for their business. Just because I want my bird to be classified as a dog, and may get the state of California to agree with me, doesn't make it so and doesn't mean that the entire country must now believe that my bird is a dog or else be subjected to being called oppressive, tyrant, bigot, etc. You can believe what you want and if we don't agree, we don't agree. I shouldn't hate you for it and think your wrong, we should still love each other and just disagree.

    November 18, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. Steven

    Whenever I read comments on same sex marriage I can only laugh. Those opposed sound just like the bigoted racists during the civil rights movement, quoting scripture and state's rights for defense. HA! Mary is dead right, you are all on the wrong side of history just like the John Paul Franklins and Jesse Helms of the world. Take your bibles and stick it where the sun don't shine, and while you're at it retrieve your head.

    November 18, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  8. ritmocojo

    Looks like Liz Cheney inherited her father's "heartlessness". Like father, like daughter...

    November 18, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. Mark C

    I live in the south. I usually vote repub. I was raised strict southern baptist. And guess what. I believe gay people should be allowed to marry. Here it is real simple folks...Some things in life are jus no one elses business period. Who you love marry and spend your life with is one of those things. You aint gotta agree with people liveing their life. you simply need to get out of their way. And if you think their wrong, leave it up to god to judge and tend u own yard.

    November 18, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Kevin

    So, marriage is all about a man and a woman coming together as one , having children and raising a family. This is where the religious folks shine in illogical thinking. This would mean we should set up a time limit and any couple who either refuses to have children or cannot have children should automatically have their marriage dissolved. And my 73 year old great aunt should never have been allowed to marry her second husband who was 6 yeas older than her since they also could not have children. If your really believe in the Bible, WHAT ITS REALLY ALL ABOUT IS RELIGIOUS ZEALOTS PICKING AND CHOOSING WHAT THEY LIKE IN THE BIBLE AND WHAT THEY DONT. I could point out hundreds of so called religious laws that all Bible-thumpers ignore every day. And after all Jesus said NOThing about "homosexuality" (I know you religious folks love the tanginess of that word)

    November 18, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  11. Ralph_in_FL

    The draft deferment disagrees with the lesbian. Astronomically big whoop.

    November 18, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Jerry Okamura

    it is all big scam. This has nothing to do with marriage. Marriage is simply an agreement between two people, who pledge to live together for the rest of their lives. ANY two people can make such a pledge to each other and no on should or can stop them from making such a pledge. This is NOT about marriage. It is about the government benefits that will come when the government recognizes such a union.

    November 18, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. Homey

    Go Reps & Tea Party Clowns – keep that inter-party feud going!! You know – fighting over who's "a real conservative, & who's a real christian". And keep that fight going over Same-Sex marriage: the Dems & Liberals will welcome all those millions of alienated voters!!

    November 18, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  14. thinking outside the box

    Rick McDaniel,

    "First of all her position is religion based, and not human rights based. That's where we differ. Marriage has little to do, with religion. It is a legal contract..."

    No, it's social contract as well and societies have regulated it since civilization was born. Gay marriage does nothing but undermine and weaken the values of society. Our families are in enough trouble.

    Dan, if it is a social contract regulated by societies don't societies then have the right to regulate that contract differently than other societies? If one society does something different from your society is that other society wrong?

    November 18, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. griff-griff

    I am not a Republican and I definitely am not a Dick Cheney fan, but I do support Liz and her stance on the sanctity of marriage. I too believe it is between a man and a woman ONLY!! I have gay and lesbian family members and friends and love them unconditionally, but I will never support the marriage of two men or two women. That's just MY opinion, which I am entitled to. I am a Democrat and was embarrassed when Pres. Obama said he supported gay marriage. Even though I supported and voted for him, we differ on the support of gay marriages.

    November 18, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. So glad...

    There are so many difficult decisions in life. I'm so glad that this is not one of them. If you want to be married, I really don't have to worry about your wedding. The gov't should take this position as well. It is not their business any more than it is mine. I would think the GOP could stand behind a notion that keeps gov't out of marriage.

    November 18, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  17. hee2

    Abortion: pro choice – pro life; Gun control: for it – againts it; Capital Punishment: opposed – support; Universal Healthcare: for it – againts it; Same Sex Marriage: for it – againts it; Religious Belief: Christian – other; Taxation: raise them – lower them; Political affiliation: Republican – Democrat – Unafilliated;
    The pattern here is that on every hot button issue there is those who stand on oneside and those who stand on another side. The question is who is right and who is wrong. The shame of it is that why should either have to choose. The beauty of our democracy is that we have protected freedoms to express and believe. These are individual personal choices we all make and what our motivation for making them, while subject to debate, should not be used as a basis to dismiss or accept how we truly feel. I must say that on the issue of same sex marriage – I am opposed to changing the definition of marriage in the evolutionary process of social change. I am receptive to the notion that through the new social order, those that are a part of the LGBT community have rights to relationship and the conceptual arrangement that simulates a marriage with many of the rights and privaleges granted therein. I am simply opposed to re-defining what "Marriage" is. Liz has EVERY right to be philosophically opposed to SSM without that having any effect in her relationship to her sibling and her sibling's companion. Mary has every right to disagree with her and she also has every right to influence her decision. What I think is unfair is that Liz – who I happen to totally disagree with politically, is being chastised by her sister for being on the Wrong Side of History. Well, with marriage, history has already been made.To compel Liz to evolve into a new perspective and hold their sibling relationship hostage is just WRONG and Selfish. We as a society seem to base everything on politics and deem it unfair when one chooses to invoke their personal views in a political arena. Lets be fair and be reasonable and remember – our rights are someone elses wrongs and our wrongs may be someone elses rights. That is the true essence of freedom. God Bless America!

    November 18, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. TadBad

    "Compassionate"? Wow, that's really big of you , Liz. (-_-) I'm *compassionate* towards people who have a serious illness for example, not of those I think of as equals.

    November 18, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Ian Silver

    I believe in the traditional definition of human being. Liz is lucky they recognize her as human in Wyoming.

    November 18, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Southerner01

    They don't have two children together. Mary Cheney has two children with a donor. Two women cannot have children together.

    November 18, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. burnt fur


    Normal has two definitions here, one meaning commonplace and one meaning accepted as functioning the way it is intended to. You're mixing the two when convenient then saying these people are abnormal thus not functioning properly, without anything to back up that statement. So on one hand, these people are not normal in that they don't occur regularly, which they and everyone else knows to be the case, including you, yet on the other hand they ARE functioning as they are intended to, which is backed up by endless scientific data and all prevelant medical and psychological organizations, which means they are in deed, normal.

    If you want everyone to follow what you're thinking, you'll need to start with some evidence rather than your opinion twisted into a pretzel.

    November 18, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Matthew

    Mary displayed her "tolerance" by saying those who disagree with her are wrong.

    November 18, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Erik Weingold

    Sure, everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to state that opinion. But, when your opinion also causes laws to take effect that take away rights or promote discrimination, then it goes beyond just freedom of speech. Anti-gay marriage laws take away people's rights to marry. How does allowing gay marriage have any affect whatsoever on folks who believe in the "traditional" definition of marriage?

    November 18, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. rl

    The United States evil Family is having a family disagreement. Too bad, hopefully they won't speak to each other or anyone for years and years to come. I guess now it is Dads chance to jump in. Haven't heard much from the evil mother for a long time. Where is she?

    November 18, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  25. burnt fur

    The difference here is you can believe marriage is between a man and a woman, but you CANNOT tell other people they have to believe that and follow it by making it law. Other people have the right to disagree with you, and the right to believe their own beliefs regarding religion. There are plenty of religions that do believe in marriage for same sex couples, and when you codify your beliefs in law you prevent these people from having the religious freedom this country is based upon. So Liz Cheney can believe what she wants, AND Mary Cheney can too–but neither side can do anything to prevent the other from following through on their beliefs. This means Liz Cheney can't tell Mary she has to wed a woman, and Mary cannot tell Liz she can't marry a woman. It's absolutely ridiculous that this very simple example of religious freedom is STILL being debated ten years after marriage equality began in the US. Stop twisting everything around, realize you don't control others' religious beliefs just because you disagree with them, and get on with your life!

    November 18, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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