Mary Cheney's pregnancy is, indeed, political

Andrea Lewis
Progressive Media Project

Mary Cheney can't have it both ways. Neither can the vice president.

When the high-profile lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney announced that she and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, are expecting their first child in the spring, she understandably sought to avoid controversy.

"This is a blessing from God," Cheney said while pointing to her pregnant belly at a recent Glamour magazine panel discussion. "It's not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child."

But like it or not, Mary Cheney has stepped into the middle of the debate over rights for gay families.

Some allies of the Bush-Cheney administration immediately attacked her. For instance, James Dobson of Focus on the Family authored a Dec. 12 Time magazine essay titled "Two Mommies Is One Too Many."

"With all due respect to Cheney and her partner," Dobson wrote, "the majority of more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father."

Numerous scholars and activists, as well as Mary Cheney, have disputed Dobson's comments and argued that responsible research has shown no difference between kids raised by same-sex parents versus heterosexual couples.

"What matters is that children are raised in a stable, loving environment," Mary Cheney said.

Sadly, Dick Cheney appears to be more comfortable defending his boss, President Bush, from critics than he is arguing for the rights of his daughter. When CNN's Wolf Blitzer gently asked Dick Cheney to respond to anti-gay comments like those of Dobson, the vice president bristled. "I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question," he said.

But what exactly was out of line about it? Dobson has visited the White House many times over the last six years. And the White House has gone out of its way to placate anti-gay forces.

Mary Cheney herself is caught in a hypocritical bind.

In 2003, she became the director of vice-presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential re-election campaign. That was the same campaign that pushed for the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

She also didn't publicly criticize the Republican anti-gay platform until she got a contract to author a biography titled "Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life." She is reported to have received a $1 million advance for the book.

Now Mary Cheney is saying that her decision to be a mom and raise her child in a same-sex couple is not a political issue.

Sorry, Mary. While no one wants to turn your child into a political prop, you can't be a public figure who openly campaigns for an anti-gay Republican agenda and then turn around and expect that your decision to have a child with your same-sex partner would not stoke the debate around the issue of rights for same-sex families.

If nothing else, Mary Cheney's pregnancy is a reminder to activists on both sides of the issue that gay families come in all colors, sizes and political persuasions, and that all of us deserve equal rights and protections under the law.

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Andrea Lewis is co-host of "The Morning Show" on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, Calif. The writer wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

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