How do you tell your sister how happy you are she is marrying her longtime girlfriend, embrace her wife as a member of the family, their children as your niece and nephew, then turn around and tell the nation you oppose gay marriage?
For this alone, Liz Cheney, who is running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Wyoming against a longtime conservative incumbent, deserves to lose.
Though the Cheney daughters have been sparring in public for months about gay marriage, their disagreement heated up again Sunday when Liz appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and noted, again, that despite what her opponent claims, she opposes gay marriage.
This did not sit well with her sister-in-law, Heather Poe, who took to Facebook to protest:
"I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.
"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.
"To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.
"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.
"I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.”
A short time later, Mary Cheney re-posted Poe’s note on her own Facebook page, 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.”
Liz Cheney, a 47-year-old heterosexual mother of five, trying to thread the needle on gay rights has instead stabbed her sister.
Worse, she’s evolved backwards on the issue.
In 2009, she opposed a Constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, and supported extending benefits to same-sex partners at the State Department, where she worked during the George W. Bush administration. These are classic baby steps on the way to accepting the civil rights argument that marriage should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation.
Supporters of her opponent, Sen. John Enzi, say her opposition to gay marriage represents a flip-flop, part of her strategy to run to his right and appeal to Tea Party Republicans in the overwhelmingly conservative state. They’ve declared her “wrong for Wyoming.”
“I don't believe we've got to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation,” Liz Cheney told Fox's Chris Wallace on Sunday. “If people are in a same-sex relationship and they want their partner to be able to have health benefits or be designated as a beneficiary on their life insurance, there's no reason they shouldn't do that. I also don't support amending the Constitution on this issue. I do believe it's an issue that's got to be left up to the state. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”
But opposing gay marriage is the very definition of discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.
Last year, 20 years to the day after their first date, Mary Cheney, 44, and Poe, 52, tied the knot in Washington, D.C. The Cheney family released this public statement:
"Mary and Heather have been in a committed relationship for many years, and we are delighted that they were able to take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized. Mary and Heather and their children are very important and much-loved members of our family, and we wish them every happiness."
Perhaps the kind words should have come with an asterisk: *For the purposes of this statement, "family" is a limited term, applicable only to parents Dick and Lynne Cheney. In the event that older sister Liz runs for public office, she is not to be considered "family" insofar as this statement can be construed to support gay marriage. Gay marriage is bad. Vote for Liz.
[For the Record, 12:14 p.m. PST Nov. 18: An earlier version of this column indicated that Liz Cheney attended her sister's wedding. She did not.]