The Cheney sisters were close growing up, especially during their father’s race as former President Bush’s running mate in 2000. But in August 2013, their sibling bond was stressed.
Liz Cheney, who is running for a Senate seat in Wyoming, announced her opposition to same-sex marriage over the summer. Mary, who is openly gay and married, says the two have not spoken since.
But the feud has not been a silent one. While neither has made direct contact with the other, social media has served as a public outlet for their dispute.
On Sunday, Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, were watching Fox News together when Liz appeared on air.
Discussing her views against marriage equality, Liz brought up her sister, describing their debate as “just an area where we disagree.”
Both Mary and Heather were hurt by Liz’s statement, and both took to Facebook to respond.
“Liz—this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree,” Mary wrote on Sunday night. “You’re just wrong—and on the wrong side of history.”
Poe, who came up with the idea to respond using social media, also used the opportunity to subtly resurface rumors of political motivation surrounding Liz’s move from Virginia to Wyoming.
“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,” wrote Heather. “Yes, Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law.”
The sisters’ famous former vice president father does not share Liz’s anti-gay beliefs. In fact, he staunchly disagreed with Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and in 2011 he told Barbara Walters, “I certainly don’t have a problem with [marriage equality].”
Liz Cheney, who is looking to uproot longtime resident of Wyoming and current Republican Senator Michael B. Enzi, is hoping her “family values” will appeal to conservative and Tea Party voters.
“I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them,” Liz wrote in an email statement. “I believe that is the Christian way to behave.” Those close to Liz have said that she is “irritated” by her sister’s decision to publicize their disagreement, and that she finds it “hypocritical” considering Mary’s work on Bush’s re-election campaign.
Mary told the “New York Times” that she had always assumed her sister shared her father’s supportive standards, and had no evidence to the contrary until Liz’s announcement in August.
Poe believes that, given Liz’s private support in the past, this public disapproval of same-sex marriage is nothing but a political ploy.
“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,” said Poe. “To have her say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
According to Mary, reconciliation with his sister will be impossible until Liz changes her opinion.
“What amazes me is that she says she’s running to be a new generation of leaders,” said Mary. “I’m not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that.”
Regardless, during her Fox appearance on Sunday night, Liz made it clear that she would continue to campaign against marriage equality.
Dick Cheney is a strong and visible supporter in his daughter’s campaign for a Wyoming Senate seat, despite their conflicting views.
Dick and Lynne Cheney are “stuck in an awful position” between their daughters, says Mary, but they try to be “as neutral as they can.” As per tradition, the family will journey to Jackson Hole for Christmas, and it seems tensions will be high.
“I will not be seeing her,” said Mary.
Noreen Malone of the New Republic says that Liz’s “family values” are hypocritical, a quality that will not bode well in her campaign.
“Her ‘family values’ position has very publicaly made her actual family values (love, loyalty) look pretty rotten,” wrote Malone. “Worse, it looks like the position she’s ruining her relationship with her sister over isn’t really one she holds, making her not just heartless but a hypocrite—which doesn’t play well just about anywhere.”