Liz Cheney (pictured left of sister Mary) wants to be the Senator from Wyoming, and to beat the incumbent Mike Enzi, she’s decided to position herself as far to the right as possible without actually falling off the face of the map. Front and center in her strategy: marriage equality. She has repeatedly said she’s against it, despite her sister Mary’s own marriage to Heather Poe. Even Dad, former VP Dick Cheney, is more liberal that Liz on the issue.
Things got a lot more interesting this weekend, when Liz decided to reiterate her opposition to marriage equality, while trying to say she’s also against discrimination. Apparently, this was too much for Mary and Heather, who took to Facebook to call Liz a hypocrite.
“Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history,” Mary wrote, taking exception to Liz’s portrayal of their opposition as just a policy matter.
Heather was a lot less restrained in her Facebook post. “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,” Poe wrote. “To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
Heather also didn’t stop from hitting Liz on a campaign weakness: that she’s a carpetbagger in Wyoming. “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.”
And just to rub it in, Heather added, “Yes, Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”
The postings made public a long simmering family battle over marriage equality that mirrors the one within the Republican party. Mary and Liz stopped talking last August after Liz came out against marriage equality.
Ever the politician, Liz tried to paper over the problem in a statement. “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.” Of course, the “Christian” is code that plays well with the right-wing base Liz is trying to attract.
Mary is having none of it. In an interview with The New York Times, she made it clear that this was a battle not just between two sisters but for the soul of the GOP.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary said. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”
Mary has her baggage in this battle; Liz is apparently irritated that her sister is calling her out when she worked for the re-election of George W. Bush, whose campaign relied on anti-marriage sentiment to whip up turnout.
Still, Mary got this one right (even if it took her a while to find her voice). Of course, there are some homophobic true believers in the GOP. But a lot of politicians are like the Cheneys, with LGBT family and friends. They know better. If the party is ever to become a national contender again, it has to get rid of the homophobic rhetoric. It’s a turn off to younger voters. Until the party realizes that, it’s going to keep losing the White House.
And maybe Liz has to lose her race. Mary seems prepared to do her part. When asked by the Times if she knew she might complicate her sister’s campaign, all Mary had to say was a clipped “OK.”