Cheney Sisters' Split Over Gay Marriage Plays Out On TV, Online

A public disagreement over same-sex marriage has escalated between the daughters of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Liz Cheney, a Republican Senate candidate, says she supports the traditional definition of marriage. Her sister Mary Cheney, a married lesbian, says Liz is on the wrong side of history.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block. The debate over same-sex marriage is at a furious boil right now inside one famous political family. Liz and Mary Cheney, the daughters of former Vice President Dick Cheney, find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. Mary is gay and married. Liz, her older sister, is running for Senate in Wyoming, and she has said she opposes same-sex marriage.

She was asked about that yesterday, on Fox News Sunday.

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CHRIS WALLACE: Your sister, Mary, who is married to a woman, put out this post. She said: For the record, I love my sister - you - but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage.

LIZ CHENEY: Yeah. And listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree.

BLOCK: New York Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin picks up the story from there. And Jonathan, very quickly, once again this dispute boiled over onto Facebook. What happened next?

JONATHAN MARTIN: Well, yesterday morning, after Liz Cheney made that statement, Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, were - as Mary told me yesterday, when I talked to her - very hurt and then they decided to go back onto Facebook and post another statement that this time, was even tougher than what they had said originally - which I think is what Chris Wallace was quoting from.

What they said this time was that Liz Cheney has spent time with them, with their children, and she has always been supportive; and also that Liz Cheney doesn't know what it's like to have to have a patchwork of states where some recognize same-sex marriage, and some don't. And the reason that was notable is because it was not so subtly done as a tweak of Liz Cheney, who - as many of you listeners know - moved back to Wyoming last year after spending much of her adult life in Northern Virginia.

BLOCK: And that post, in particular, was from Mary Cheney's wife, Heather Poe; basically making her claim that...

MARTIN: That's from Heather Poe, Mary Cheney's wife. And keep in mind that the biggest issue that Liz Cheney has been dealing with so far in the campaign for that Wyoming Senate seat, is proving her Wyoming credentials.

BLOCK: Is the basic point being made by Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, that Liz Cheney is being hypocritical; in other words, she comes to their house, she's nice to them and their children, and then she takes a position in public that is at odds with how she is in private?

MARTIN: Right. That would be the view of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe. Now, Liz Cheney, for her part, thinks that it's Mary Cheney who is hypocritical here because what Liz Cheney has told people is that Mary Cheney worked on President Bush's re-election campaign as a paid staffer in 2004, when President Bush was, in fact, running on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage; and you know, Mary Cheney, obviously, didn't agree with that. So I think the charges on hypocrisy are flying on both sides.

BLOCK: Jonathan, you mentioned that you talked with Mary Cheney by phone yesterday. What else did she tell you about how deep this rift is cutting, in the family?

MARTIN: They are at odds. They have not spoken since this summer. In fact, Mary Cheney told me that when she sees her parents, they simply don't talk about Liz or the Senate race because her parents know just not to go there.

BLOCK: The parents have now weighed in. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney issued a statement today saying, in part, they are pained to see this become public. They say: Let it be clear, Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. And they go on to say, in this statement: Liz Cheney has also always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done.

MARTIN: Right.

BLOCK: Both parents, I believe, have said that they do not have a problem with same-sex marriage.

MARTIN: Correct. They are supportive of same-sex marriage rights.

BLOCK: How has this should become a factor in the Senate race? Liz Cheney is challenging the incumbent Republican, Mike Enzi, in the primary.

MARTIN: You know, Liz Cheney is trying to sort of prove her Wyoming bona fides, and this is the kind of thing that reminds people of some other sort of drama involved in her campaign. So, you know, I don't think she's gotten damaged by the substance of it. It's just that it's one more thing that's been something of a distraction.

BLOCK: Jonathan Martin is national political correspondent with the New York Times. Jonathan, thanks so much.

MARTIN: Thank you so much.

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