Liz Cheney hit by sister for opposing gay marriage. Will that matter in Wyoming?

On Fox News Sunday, Senate candidate Liz Cheney said she favors 'traditional marriage.' Liz's sister Mary, married to another woman with whom she's raising two children, fired back on Facebook.

John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor
Vice President Dick Cheney's daughters Liz, left, in pink coat holding handrail, and Mary, arrive for the swearing-in of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney at the inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol in 2005.

Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney on Sunday was sharply condemned for her opposition to gay marriage by her own sister, Mary Cheney.

Mary Cheney is gay. She and wife Heather Poe are raising two children.

“Liz – this isn’t just an issue on which we disagree – you’re just wrong – and on the wrong side of history,” wrote Mary Cheney on her Facebook page.

This intra-family spat was sparked by a comment that older sister Liz, who’s running for the GOP Senate nomination against incumbent Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, made earlier in the day on “Fox News Sunday”.

Asked by host Chris Wallace if she’d flip-flopped on gay rights, Liz Cheney said she hadn’t. While she supports equal benefits for same-sex partnerships, she thinks it’s an issue best left to states to decide.

“I do believe in the traditional issue of marriage,” she said.

This is what did not sit well with little sister Mary and Mary’s spouse Heather Poe, whose own Facebook comments were direct and personal.

“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,” wrote Poe. “To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least”.

The context of this story is that on gay marriage Liz Cheney is caught between her family and the politics of Wyoming.

Wyoming is a conservative state. Sen. Enzi, the man Cheney wishes to unseat, is himself a gay marriage opponent. Plus, an outside money group that supports Enzi, the American Principles Fund, has been running ads that take not-too-subtle swipes at Cheney as soft when it comes to gay rights issues.

An ad titled “Wrong for Wyoming," for instance, shows clips of Cheney appearing on the “liberal elites” channel MSNBC to discuss same-sex marriage. Cheney “supports government benefits for gay couples” says the spot.

Another, called “Wyoming Values”, features conservative icon and former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee saying that Mike Enzi is a “principled conservative . . . who believes that a mom and dad can do a better job raising kids than a government ever can do”.

On “Fox News Sunday” Cheney complained about this tactic, saying “Senator Enzi’s friends and supporters are running a really scurrilous ad in Wyoming. And the senator has said many times that he doesn’t believe in gutter politics . . . I think he ought to renounce it,” says said.

Cheney may be struggling to get traction against an incumbent who’s punching back pretty hard against her primary challenge. There’s little polling in the thinly populated state, but a July survey by the Democratic firm PPP found her 28 points behind Enzi. An internal poll conducted by the aforementioned American Principles Fund at the end of October put Enzi up by a whopping 52 points.

That should be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt. But it’s probably safe to say that at this point, with a long way to go in the campaign, Cheney remains well behind the three-term incumbent.

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