The family feud over same-sex marriage that has torn former Vice President Dick Cheney's clan apart is wreaking havoc on its traditional Christmas gathering in Wyoming.
Mary Cheney apparently won't be spending time there with her sister Liz, who is challenging incumbent Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi in the Republican Senate primary next year. Liz Cheney has publicly rejected the idea of same-sex marriage, saying she disagrees with her lesbian sister.
"I will not be seeing her," Mary Cheney, who is married to Heather Poe, with whom she has two young children, told The New York Times
Cheney and Poe have been partners for 21 years, and both thought they at least had Liz's support if not the outright blessing. But when Liz said in a Nov. 17 interview with Fox News that she was opposed to same-sex marriage, it came as a surprise to both, and left the former vice president uncomfortably caught in the middle of a fight between his two daughters.
“This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public,” Cheney and his wife, Lynne, said in a statement. “Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage.”
Poe, who usually keeps a low profile, was so angered by Liz's statements that she railed against her in a Facebook posting, while defending her marriage and life with Mary, according to The Washington Post
Poe pointed out that Liz had shared holidays with her family and said she was "happy for us" when they married. "To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least,” fumed Poe.
For her part, Mary, a political consultant, has called her sibling's stance on gay marriage "dead wrong," and said in posting of her own that Liz is on the wrong side of history.
The public feud, according to the Post, has taken Cheney family friends and supporters by surprise.
"This is the first public break. The Cheneys set the mark for discipline and unity. They were always one," Kevin Kellems, Cheney's communications director during his time as George W. Bush's vice president, told the Post.
Kellems believes Poe hit back at Liz so publicly because she "feels liberated to speak her own mind" since Dick Cheney is no longer vice president. “It may reflect an evolution of the polity as much as the evolution of a family. Hers is a powerful voice because she has been patient."
Stephanie Ciulla, a friend of Poe's for seven years, told the Post it's hard to understand Liz's position on same-sex marriage because Poe has always been well-treated by the Cheney family.
“She’s told me the Cheneys have always been accepting of her and never done anything to make her uncomfortable, never,” Ciulla said. “She feels she is part of that family and has never felt otherwise."
Poe, a former UPS manager from Colorado, is a stay-at-home mom, caring for her children Samuel, 6, and Sarah, 4.
“They are a very caring and loving couple," Ciulla said of Poe and Mary Cheney. "They have a stable relationship. I think it’s changed some people’s minds about what parenting is all about."
Ciulla, who is also a lesbian, added, “They have proven to be good ambassadors for us.”
Karen Spencer, who worked on Dick Cheney’s first congressional campaign and has known his daughters since they were young, told the Post she was "appalled" by Liz's attack on gay marriage.
"I’ve never seen two sisters closer than these two," Spencer said. "I don’t understand why Liz is doing this.
"I think the girls need to sit down and have a long talk,” she added.
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