Cat­fight at the Cheney cor­ral

Even Repub­li­cans of top po­lit­i­cal pedi­gree strug­gle over gay mar­riage

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - By Suzanne Fields

You could call it the “Cat­fight at Cheney Cor­ral” (but if you do, you should ex­pect fem­i­nist out­rage). When Liz Cheney moved from the sub­urbs of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal to Wyoming to run for the U.S. Se­nate, she knew she was ask­ing for trou­ble. She risked be­ing called a “car­pet­bag­ger,” but that has a sharper st­ing in Vir­ginia than in Wyoming. By em­pha­siz­ing her con­ser­va­tive roots, she pulled in­ti­mate and sen­si­tive fam­ily laun­dry out for a pub­lic air­ing.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that her sis­ter was in a gay mar­riage, which isn’t rec­og­nized as a true mar­riage in ei­ther Vir­ginia or Wyoming, she said it was just “an area where we dis­agree.”

That mes­sage could have been lost had it been sent from Wyoming by Pony Ex­press, but in the age of Face­book, Twit­ter and email, fight­ing words are bathed in adren­a­line and dis­patched for in­stant ar­rival. Mary, her les­bian sis­ter, and Heather Poe, Mary’s wife, as rec­og­nized in 15 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia, re­sponded quickly with anger. Mary said Liz was “on the wrong side of his­tory.” Heather said it was “of­fen­sive” to hear that Liz doesn’t “sup­port” their union, and called at­ten­tion to Liz’s re­cent change of ad­dress: “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.”

With nei­ther Wy­att Earp nor Doc Hol­l­i­day in sight, Papa Cheney, who knows what it feels like to be caught in the cross­fire of pol­i­tics, jumped on his not-so-high horse to ride to sep­a­rate his daugh­ters. Alas, he didn’t have much to of­fer be­yond pa­ter­nal af­fec­tion and his own mod­er­ate po­si­tion on same-sex mar­riage. Dick and Lynne Cheney re­leased in writ­ing a state­ment that Liz “had al­ways be­lieved in the tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage.”

Feuds in fa­mous fam­i­lies make juicy copy, but this one has few na­tional por­tents. The seat is held now by Sen. Michael B. Enzi, a Repub­li­can, and short of a tsunami (rare in Wyoming) or a col­lid­ing planet, it will re­main Repub­li­can. Liz is the long­est of long shots; one Repub­li­can poll shows her trail­ing Mr. Enzi by 53 points. Her call for a “new gen­er­a­tion” to rep­re­sent Wyoming smacks more of at­tempted op­por­tunism and “ageism” (her op­po­nent is 69 and she is 47) than pol­icy dif­fer­ences, but with daddy’s mar­riage is no longer the hot but­ton it was now that 15 states and the Dis­trict rec­og­nize same­sex mar­riage as le­gal, and some polls show a bare ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans say­ing it’s OK. The Supreme Court has de­creed that fed­eral ben­e­fits can­not be de­nied to same-sex cou­ples.

A third of Repub­li­cans say gay mar­riage should be le­gal, up from 22 per­cent five years ago, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC poll. A ma­jor­ity of Repub­li­cans and in­de­pen­dents un­der 50 who lean Repub­li­can say gay mar­riage should be le­gal. A third of Amer­i­cans polled who fa­vor gay mar­riage say they once held the op­po­site view.

Fam­ily val­ues, a win­ning theme for Repub­li­cans, has be­come more “nu­anced” as fam­ily mem­bers come out of the closet. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a Repub­li­can, changed his mind when his son told him he was gay. He joined nine other Repub­li­cans to vote for leg­is­la­tion for­bid­ding em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion to­ward gays.

Papa Cheney, as vice pres­i­dent, sup­ported state-sanc­tioned gay mar­riage when Pres­i­dent Bush sup­ported a fed­eral ban. Mary, his an­gry les­bian daugh­ter, cam­paigned for the Bush-Cheney ticket, though her sup­port was ob­vi­ously more per­sonal than po­lit­i­cal. Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, who sup­port gay mar­riage, are not al­ways sin­gle-is­sue vot­ers, and usu­ally sup­port con­ser­va­tives on eco­nomic and de­fense-pol­icy is­sues. They say the split in the Cheney fam­ily is “em­blem­atic” of dis­cus­sions tak­ing place in many Repub­li­can fam­i­lies.

It took four days to film the fa­mous gun­fight scene be­tween feuding fam­i­lies in the movie ver­sion of “Gun­fight at the O.K. Cor­ral.” The cat­fight at the Cheney cor­ral is likely to fade sooner than that, and long be­fore the gay-mar­riage is­sue is set­tled among Repub­li­cans and other con­ser­va­tives. as­sis­tance, she raised more money in her first quar­ter than the in­cum­bent, who looks like he won’t need it.

All pol­i­tics is lo­cal, and in Wyoming, lo­cal is Cody, Casper, Laramie and Cheyenne, and other names known to most Amer­i­cans only from Western movies. “Th­ese types of tiffs be­tween the two sis­ters, that re­ally isn’t the head­line drawer for us,” Kyle Ro­erink, a reporter for the Casper Star-Tri­bune, tells Politico, the Capi­tol Hill po­lit­i­cal daily. “What we want to re­port on here in Wyoming, what mat­ters most, is where they stand on pol­icy.” Re­fresh­ing, if true.

Nev­er­the­less, the show­down at the Cheney cor­ral il­lus­trates a prob­lem for Repub­li­cans in 2016, as the so­cial is­sues af­fect pol­icy. Gay


Liz and Mary Cheney

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