You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Liz Cheney's "Family Values" Mean She Doesn't Support Her Sister's Gay Marriage

Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

Liz Cheney is running for Senate in Wyoming, and to telegraph her family values, she's decided to publicly undermine the very philosophical underpinnings of her sister's marriage. Mary Cheney is a lesbian—one of the reasons her father Dick was an early Republican supporter of gay marriage—and got married to her partner, with whom she shares two children, last year. At the time, says Mary's partner Heather Poe, Liz was nothing but sisterly. "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 the New York Times in an email. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.” 

Liz Cheney (who is running against Mike Enzi, a Republican incumbent), first declared publicly in August that she was opposed to gay marriage, precipitating an uncomfortable but mostly private rift with her sister. The two haven't spoken since then. Yesterday, Liz Cheney reiterated her stance on Fox News Sunday and said that, re: her sister, it was just an area where they "disagree." Mary then took to Facebook, where she wrote, "Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong—and on the wrong side of history.” She went even farther in her reply via a Times reporter: 

“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leader,” Mary Cheney said, citing her 47-year-old sister’s slogan in her campaign against Mr. Enzi, 69. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.” [...]In the interview, Mary Cheney, who is a longtime political consultant, said she would continue to raise the matter. Reminded by a reporter that such criticism could complicate her sister’s Senate campaign, Mary Cheney offered a clipped answer reminiscent of her father’s terse style. “O.K.,” she said, before letting silence fill the air.

Liz Cheney is the kind of Republican who makes her father look earnestly idealistic. She has a law degree from the University of Chicago, which means she's probably more than intelligent enough to realize climate change is real—and yet she denies its existence publicly. She's thrown in her lot with the Tea Party for electoral advantage. It probably shouldn't be a surprise that she's willing to sell out her sister for the sake of a few votes.  But what is surprising is how poorly she thought this one out. Cheney is already the race's carpetbagger (she moved from Northern Virginia to seek the seat), and so she's working at an authenticity deficit. It sounds like she and her sister were formerly pretty close, so she should have known that Mary wasn't going to be the type to sit quietly by. And so she's opened herself up to just about the worst scenario possible: Her "family values" position has very publicly made her actual family values (love, loyalty) look pretty rotten. Worse, it looks like the position she's ruining her relationship with her sister over isn't really one she holds, making her not just heartless but a hypocrite—which doesn't play well just about anywhere. (Not even in the Cheney family home!)

Besides, it probably wouldn't actually be SO terrible to come out in cautious support of gay marriage. The tide is turning on this issue so rapidly that pollsters can't entirely keep up, but a 2012 study from UCLA Law School showed that 41 percent of Wyoming residents support gay marriage. That's up from 26 percent in 2004. For context, 47 percent of New Hampshire residents support gay marriage, where it was passed in 2009. Wyoming might be a rural state, but it's not in the Bible Belt. There's a strong libertarian, live-and-let-live ethos there (one that her opponent, Enzi, is tapping into). Coming out in support of gay marriage could have been an easy way to differentiate herself from her opponent. Instead, Cheney's just distanced herself from her family, and drawn the wrong sort of attention to her famous last name.