Sisters Liz and Mary Cheney are fighting over same-sex marriage — in particular, over Mary Cheney’s same-sex marriage. Excerpt:
“We were as close as sisters can be,” recalled Mary Cheney of her relationship with her older sister, Liz.
But now, a feud between the two has spilled into public view, involving social media, an angry same-sex spouse, a high-profile election and a father who feels uncomfortably caught between his two children.
The situation has deteriorated so much that the two sisters have not spoken since the summer, and the quarrel threatens to get in the way of something former Vice President Dick Cheney desperately wants — a United States Senate seat for Liz.
Things erupted on Sunday when Mary Cheney, a lesbian, and her wife were at home watching “Fox News Sunday” — their usual weekend ritual. Liz Cheney appeared on the show and said that she opposed same-sex marriage, describing it as “just an area where we disagree,” referring to her sister. Taken aback and hurt, Mary Cheney took to her Facebook page to blast back: “Liz — this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree you’re just wrong — and on the wrong side of history.”
Liz Cheney on Sunday declined to directly address the remarks from her sister and sister-in-law, but said in an email: “I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave.”
People who have spoken to Liz Cheney say she is irritated that her sister is making their dispute public and believes it is hypocritical for Mary Cheney to take such a hard line now, given that she worked for the re-election of President Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage.
It’s impossible to say what’s really going on inside this family. It could be that Liz Cheney always had a problem with her sister’s lesbian relationship, but kept quiet out of respect. Or it could be that Liz Cheney is throwing her sister and her sister’s wife under the bus out of political opportunism. Certainly it is arguable that Mary Cheney put her gay-rights principles on the back burner for the sake of re-electing President Bush.
This case does raise sensitive and painful questions for families: What is the correct way to think of, and to relate to, one’s same-sex family members? If one is gay, how much grace and tolerance should one give to one’s relatives when they cannot fully accept one’s same-sex relationship?
It’s an area fraught with complexity and tension. It’s easy to say, “It’s our way or the highway,” because that has the advantage of moral clarity. But it’s also inhuman. On the other hand, it’s also inhuman for conservative family members to expect gay family members to accept scorn and rejection as the cost for being a member of the family.
If I were gay and partnered, what would I expect? I don’t think I would expect my family to fully endorse my sexuality and my partnership. It would be appreciated if they could, but given how conservative many of them are, I think it’s unrealistic to expect that — especially if they were religious. On the other hand, I would expect them to treat my partner and me with respect at family get-togethers — which includes not gossiping behind our backs. If they couldn’t do that, then we wouldn’t see them. But I don’t think it would be unfair of them to expect me to meet them halfway in terms of tolerance. This issue is hard for most people, gay and straight.
Interestingly, I think I would be less willing to meet them halfway if I were married to a person of another race, and I had family members who rejected her, or us as a couple, because of that. That’s because I can understand Christians in good faith not being able to endorse same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior — I am one of those Christians — but I cannot see any moral grounds in Christianity for viewing race in the same way.
In either case, if my family were unwelcoming or rude to my spouse, same-sex or of another race, they would not see me either. I know where my primary loyalties lie.
It is hard for me to imagine rejecting my children based on their sexual orientation, even if they were to partner with someone of their own sex. I would commit myself to working through it, and would hope that they would recognize that I don’t hold the views I do out of prejudice, but out of sincere Christian faith, a faith that I am not ashamed of, and will not deny. My hope and my prayer would be that the love we would have for each other — a love that I could foresee extending to their partner — would hold us together, despite our differences. Maybe that’s utopian, I don’t know.
The problem here, I think, is this: what is identity? Is sexual desire and emotional orientation at the core of one’s identity, or ancillary to it? To what extent is having one’s sexuality rejected the same as having one’s personality rejected? And, is religious conviction at the core of one’s identity, or ancillary to it? To what extent is having one’s religious convictions rejected the same as having one’s personality rejected?
What do you think? Let’s keep this discussion civil.
UPDATE: I didn’t allow this comment from “Ben” to go up, but I post it here as an example of the kind of conservative I don’t want to be:
With “loving, tolerant” conservative pussys like you, I know the future is lost.
Maybe. But I’d rather not have the future determined by people like this tool.