Cheney Comes Out for Gay Marriage, State-by-State
By Dan Eggen
Former vice president Richard Cheney waded into another simmering public debate today, suggesting he supports legalizing gay marriage as long as the issue is decided by the states rather than the federal government.
Cheney, whose youngest daughter is a lesbian with a longtime partner, said during an appearance at the National Press Club that "people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish."
He said he does not support federal action allowing gay marriages, however. "Historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level," Cheney said. "It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis."
Cheney has long departed from conservative orthodoxy on the issue of gay marriage, saying during the 2000 presidential campaign that the matter should be left to the states. He also prompted an uproar during the 2004 race when he appeared to distance himself from a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which was strongly supported by his boss, George W. Bush.
But his endorsement of state-sanctioned marriage for gays and lesbians appears to put him to the left of President Obama, who has said he supports civil unions rather than marriage for same-sex couples.
"With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone," Cheney said at a 2004 campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa, using language nearly identical to his remarks today. "People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."
As he has in the past, Cheney specifically cited his family's experience during his comments in Washington today. "As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family," Cheney said.
Cheney's youngest daughter, Mary, and her longtime partner, Heather Poe, have a son, Samuel, who was born to Mary Cheney in 2007. Both Mary and her older sister, Elizabeth, have been prominent supporters of their father and Republican causes, although Mary has said in interviews that she considered quitting the Bush re-election effort in 2004 because of the gay marriage issue.
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