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MAY 26, 2006
Don't bash Mary Cheney
It's tempting to criticize the vice president's daughter,
but we'd do well to take a look in the mirror first.
By KEVIN NAFF
T'S TEMPTING TO
criticize Mary Cheney.
The lesbian daughter of
Vice President Dick Cheney
worked on the campaign to
re-elect her father and
President Bush, even as
Republicans worked to ban same-sex marriage via federal and state constitutional
amendments and used the issue to drive
conservative voters to the polls.
Gay rights activists were rightly upset
that she didn't abandon the campaign or
even take a public stand opposing the
amendment efforts, which Bush endorsed
in a State of the Union speech.
Now Mary has written a book and,
Finally, granted interviews on the subject
of being the lesbian daughter of the conservative vice president.
She says she talked to her family about
quitting the 2004 campaign over the marriage issue and that she declined a Bush
offer to give a public statement disagreeing with the president's position. But ultimately she stayed behind the scenes and
stuck it out, for her father's sake.
It's difficult to fault her when she puts
it in those terms. How many of us stand
up to conservative family members when
they fail to support us 100 percent?
My own parents backed Bush in 2000
and 2004, but I haven't stopped speaking to
them. They know where I stand, and we
agree to disagree. And whether we care to
admit it or not, there are ways large and
small in which most of us take advantage
of the refuge of the closet.
AT LARGE GATHERINGS OF EXTENDED
family, I don't always bring my partner
because it's easier to just avoid the stress.
He's close to my immediate family and
that's enough for me. I don't need every
third-cousin-once-removed to know my
partner to feel validated.
When we check into a hotel together,
sometimes one of us will hold back in the
lobby to avoid those awkward confrontations with the front desk staff. "That room
has one king bed. let me find you something with two doubles."
And how many of us walk around holding hands with a partner in public? Or
display a photo of a significant other on a
desk at work?
Of course, in an ideal world, full openness at all times would be the reality and
we would respond to anti-gay sentiment in
a consistently vociferous way. But who
lives in that place?
Yes, it's tempting to bash Mary, but how
many of us can say we are out to absolutely everyone in our lives — that includes
employers, co-workers, extended family
and neighbors? And for those who are out
— as Mary has been for years — how
many back up their political beliefs with
action at all times?
She certainly should have accepted
Bush's invitation to issue a public statement condemning the marriage amendment and her critics are right that Mary
won't be winning any "profiles in gay
There are plenty of gay men and lesbians with famous conservative relatives
who chose a more aggressive path —
Candace Gingrich, Maya Keyes and David
Knight come to mind. They are worthy of
And Mary's criticisms of John Kerry
and John Edwards for mentioning her
sexual orientation during the 2004 debates
fall flat. Mary has harsh words for Kerry
and Edwards, but praise for Bush, who is
doing more to set back the gay rights
movement than any president in decades.
COMING OUT IS AN INTENSELY
personal decision, but one that has far-
reaching ripple effects that are anything
but personal. In fact, the surest way to
equality under the law is for gays to be
out. Of course, that's easy to say and not
always so easy to do.
For some, coming out means being
thrown out of the house, gay bashed or
losing parental financial support. For
others, it means risking a lucrative job
or promotion. 1 think it's worth the risk,
but I'm financially independent and
work in a large city for a gay-owned
In my previous job, I stood up to anti-
gay discrimination within the company
and was rewarded by having my work
assignments revoked and the office secretary tracking my every move in an effort
to catch me taking too long a lunch
break. I hired a lawyer and quit before
they could fire me. And this was in
Maryland, where state law supposedly
prohibits such behavior.
■ Fr?* **f
Mary Cheney said she swallowed her criticisms of
President Bush on the federal marriage amendment
out of deference to her father, the vice president,
and it's hard to fault her for that (Photo by Freddie
Lee, FOX News Sunday/AP)
Coming out remains difficult even for
the rich and famous — witness CNN's
Anderson Cooper making the media
rounds promoting his memoir that is suspiciously devoid of any mention of a significant other. Or Sean Hayes avoiding
"the question" while promoting the recent
finale of "Will & Grace." Or Clay Aiken's
denials even as he brazenly trolls gay
hookup sites for sex partners.
Mary did the right thing in coming out
at a young age to her parents and refusing
to go back in the closet when it would
have been politically convenient for her
father. Yes, she could have quit the campaign and taken the high road. But she
would have alienated those closest to her.
By all accounts, she's doing exactly
what all gay men and lesbians ought to do:
living her life openly at work, at home and
Before the sanctimonious among us
line up to bash Mary again, they should
ask themselves if they're really living an
honest life 100 percent of
the time, no exceptions.
I'm not. Are you?
Kevin Naff is man-
U aging editor of the
and can be reached at