Mary Cheney is usually not the one to give speeches in her family. She isn’t her father, the patriarch of the family, who served in the administrations of Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and as George W. Bush’s vice president. She also isn’t her sister, Liz Cheney, a regular face on cable news who tried but failed earlier this year to unseat the Republican senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi.
So when Mary Cheney does speak, people tend to listen. That was the case last November when a feud erupted between sisters Mary and Liz over marriage equality. Liz Cheney was in the midst of her race against Enzi and appeared on Fox News to clarify that despite the fact that her sister is married to another women and her father — who famously said “freedom means freedom for everyone” — supports marriage equality, she does not.
“I do believe it’s an issue that’s got to be left up to states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.” she said. “I love Mary very much, I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree.”
Mary Cheney’s spouse, Heather Poe, shot back on Facebook, calling her sister-in-law’s remarks “offensive to say the least.” Mary Cheney also chimed in, sharing Poe’s post and adding, “Couldn’t have said it better myself. Liz – this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree – you’re just wrong – and on the wrong side of history.”
It was also the case Wednesday night at a hotel in downtown Washington where the Log Cabin Republicans held their Spirt of Lincoln dinner. Taking the stage, Mary Cheney said the invitation to keynote the annual fundraiser was unexpected.
“I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to be invited to speak with you this evening — because even though I am a long time Washingtonian and make my living as a political consultant, I’m not known as the speechmaker in the family,” she said. “I’m not running for anything. I don’t have a book to sell and I’m not angling for a job or a television contract.”
According to Cheney, the movement for equality is winning, but the fight is far from over.
“Momentum is certainly on the side of equality and it is moving far faster than anyone anticipated — certainly faster than I ever hoped. But even if, as many people hope, the Supreme Court decides to take up the issue this term — and even if the justices rule once and for all in favor of marriage equality — that’s not going to be the end of the battle — at least not the political battle,” she said. “There will still be much work to do — particularly when it comes to educating and changing people’s perceptions of same sex families.”
Victories certainly continue to mount for LGBT equality, and Republicans increasingly appear more willing to express their support or to shy from their opposition. In the Senate, Rob Portman (Ohio), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collin (Maine) have all openly expressed their support for marriage equality. In the House of Representatives, four Republicans have openly endorsed same-sex marriages: Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charlie Dent (Pa.) and David Jolly (Fla.). Last November, 10 Senate Republicans voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — the most Senate Republicans to ever vote for a piece of gay rights legislation, let alone one that also protects transgender Americans.
In the face of all that momentum, Cheney insisted that true equality can never be fully achieved until both parties are in sync on gay-rights issues.
“Despite what some of our friends on the other side of the aisle may say — true equality cannot be achieved without support from both Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “It’s only when marriage stops being treated as a partisan issue and starts being dealt with as a human rights issue that true equality will become a reality.”
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The “big tent” championed by Ronald Reagan was on the minds of many Wednesday, including the leadership of Log Cabin Republicans as they announced a cross-country “Big Tent Tour.”
“We’re taking this show on the road, bringing a message of common-sense conservatism across the country from D.C. to L.A. and everywhere in-between, culminating with a major event at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio,” said Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans.
Arguably, the big tent was also on display. Wednesday’s event was attended by a number of Republican members of Congress, including Reps. Paul Ryan (Wisc.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.). Conservative attorney Ted Olson also attended, as well as gay GOP congressional candidates Richard Tisei and Carl DeMaio.
Poking fun at her own family, Cheney said there was much to be hopeful about: “Now I’m not normally known for being an overly optimistic, warm and fuzzy, everything is sunshine and roses kind of person — it may be genetic — but the changes we are starting to see in the Republican Party have made me increasingly hopeful about both the future of equality and the future of our party.”
Read Cheney’s full remarks on the next page.