The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Something Else About Mary

Not to beat a dead horse, but that last post about Mary Cheney felt incomplete to me. I wasn't sure why until I read Robbie's post, suggesting that gay activists ease up on Mary. I started writing this as a comment on his post, but it started running a little long, so I decided to post it here. I've been more than a little critical of Mary and her parents in the past, but this time I kind of agree wit her, and posted as much.

As a gay dad, I'm glad she's speaking up and countering one of the accusations so often leveled at us by the Dobsons of the world: that we become parents purely for political reasons. I know she won't reach people like Dobson, but maybe she'll reach some people that folks like me can't.

On the other hand, I understand some people's frustration. In 2004, she quietly supported a candidate and party leadership that made our families a political issue. And not without consequences either. That frustrates people like Steve Koval, whose post set Robbie off.

You don't work to elect an anti-gay administration that uses same-sex marriage as a wedge issue to ensure victory, and then get to complain about how having a baby with your same-sex partner is somehow not a legitimate subject.

But Steve's right. The national Republican party, and the Bush campaign in particular, did urge their state parties to get anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot, in order to get out the evangelical vote for the party. It worked. They passed in most states, and will have consequences that gay & lesbian families will have to live with for some time to come. And Mary, by her silence and support for the campaign, helped that happen.

But it helped get Bush/Cheney back into the White House. And Mary kept her mouth shut until that was accomplished. Now, it may have been due to loyalty to her family, or because she bases her support for the party on other issues, like a lot of gay Republicans do. (And, I might add, a lot of gay Democrats base their party support on issues other than gay rights.) I understand commitment to family. I just posted about it earlier. But the reality is that many of our families will have to live with the aftermath of the administration Mary helped elect, in ways that Mary and her family won't because — as Robbie said — Mary is not an average lesbian.

While some might say her money provides some insulation, we forget she is attacked in more viscious terms and on deeper levels than your run of the mill lesbian. She is a Republican, her father is the second most powerful man in the party. She is a traitor to the cause, an internal danger to the current monopoly of power the Dobsian Right now holds. Her social circle and professional life are full of people who vote against her, her partner, and soon her child.

But she is a Cheney. No matter what amendments or laws pass, she and hers will probably be taken care of. The Cheney name and money will see to that, no matter what the Dobsons of the world seek to inflict on gay families. Not so for the rest of us. Every time a gay family in one of those states bears the full brunt of the consequences of these amendments, Mary will have had some hand in it. No amount of speaking up she does not will change that.

And, honestly, Mary didn't owe the rest of us anything then and doesn't now, as long as she and hers are taken care of. But what, then, do we owe her now? And why?

Robbie rightly asks just was Democrats have delivered for gays and lesbians beyond words of support. I've asked that question myself, and noted that they're backing off from even that level of support. But then it's fair to ask just the same of Republicans. Somehow Cheney's verbal support of his daughter, which didn't yield any more real social or political change for our families than any number of Democrats offering the same kind of support, carries more weight than those of a party that — at the very least — hasn't actively tried to legislate against our families, as the Republican party has at just about every turn.

Given that, it's not even remotely out of line to ask Dick Cheney, or Lynn Cheney how they reconcile they're support for their daughter with their support for a party that's still rather beholden to people who seem to despise people like their daughter, and who do everything they can to demonize us and our families, and legislate discrimination against us. The contradiction is so obvious, and the cognitive dissonance so disturbing, that most people can't help but wonder about it.

If Mary wasn't out, then it might be an intrusion. But an out lesbian mother-to-be supporting a vehemently anti-gay party, and the parents of said lesbian who are leaders in that party, have got to expect some questions. At least from thinking people, anyway. In a previous post about Mary Cheney, I linked to two pretty good responses to Dick and Lynne Cheney's reaction.

One from the Huffington Post:

That’s why this little event in the second family matters. Dick and Lynn love their daughter. She’s an actual real person to them. They will stand by her, as they should, and the hell with ideology.

But what Dick and Lynn don’t get is that all human beings in the world are connected to the particular people they love in the same way. What the politics they represent ignores is the meaning of that particular, yet universal, love. That ignorance allows them to countenance the slaughter of innocents in the name of abstractions.

And one, a bit more toned down but no less relevant, from Leonard Pitts.

I find it telling that Vice President Dick Cheney hews to the hard conservative line on virtually every social issue, except gay marriage. It is, of course, no coincidence that Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian. Which tells me his position is based not on principle but, rather, on loving his daughter.

It is a fine thing to love your daughter. I would argue, however, that it is also a fine thing and in some ways, a finer thing, to love your neighbor’s daughter, no matter her sexual orientation, religion, race, creed or economic status — and to want her freedom as eagerly as you want your own.

And, yes, Cheney voiced his opposition to the FMA and declared that "Freedom means freedom for everyone." But what has he done, as Vice President or the father of a lesbian daughter, to counter the rampant homophobia in his party beyond words? It's a fair question, for a man who is part of an administration that's actively encouraged legislating discrimination against gay families. My guess is that he knows that, whatever else happens, he'll look out for his daughter and her family as long as he's around.

The Democratic majority in Congress could potentially pass employment non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. If they do, they'll give president Bush an opportunity to sign legislation that might actually put him on the right side of history for a change. But even if the Democratic congress doesn't pass a single piece of pro-gay legislation, they'll be an improvement over the Republican majority in that they won't be actively seeking to do us harm. After six-years of Republican rule, brought to us in part by Mary Cheney, just being left alone would be a huge improvement.

What could Mary have done in 2004? Well, nothing necessarily as drastic as Robbie suggested gay activists would've liked her to do.

Some, it would seem, almost wish she would have disowned her father, staged a protest, and ridden bare-breasted to the capitol on a white charger to challenge Republican orthodoxy. While that's certainly what gay activists do when their preferred candidates never deliver (ahem), it is not what most of us do when confronted with family.

Actually, plenty of us hold our candidates accountable and let them know when we're unhappy. Sometimes it gets results, and sometimes it doesn't, but keeping quiet in the way that Mary did certainly doesn't change anything. Or, for that matter, the way Mark Foley and any number of gay Republicans did. For that matter, what has the Republican Unity Coalition accomplished along the lines of making sexual oreintation a "non-issue" in the party? Their last press release was in 2001, and their last update to their site was a year ago. And it doesn't look like Mary or any of the Cheneys have anything to do with the group, if it still exists.

We'll never know what Mary might have done differently in 2004, or what difference it would have made, because she opted not to make a difference. And her silence, arguably, had consequences for the rest of us then, and still does now.

Oh well. We can't undo the past. And at least Mary's speaking up now. I'll give her credit for that much. But what difference it makes, and what difference she makes, remains to be seen.