Andrew Sullivan writes about the recent dustup between Liz Cheney, her sister Mary and her sister-in-law Heather Poe and points out, correctly, that this is just the latest public playing out of a longstanding conflict in Republican circles, where people who are personally fine with gay people and want equality for them nonetheless use anti-gay bigotry for political gain.
I remember – those were the days – when I was invited to meet Rove in the White House early in the first Bush term, and pressed the case against the FMA, or any variant thereof. Rove simply told me that there were many more Christianists than homos, and that mathematical reality dwarfed any arguments, however meritorious. It wasn’t the first time I had seen utter cynicism on this issue in high places – it was hard to beat the Clintons for that. But the baldness of the cynicism – the reflexive refusal even to address the actual rights and wrongs of the matter – was never better expressed than by Rove.
Cheney got a pass – but he shouldn’t have. He boldly came out for marriage equality explicitly … in 2009. In the vice-presidential debate of 2004, he bristled – as did the public – at being confronted by the fact that he was hurting his own family on this issue. But at some point, the contradictions – and their deep moral consequences – had to emerge. And now they have in full bloom. Liz Cheney, not a homophobe in my personal memory, is nonetheless opposing her sister’s right to marry – anywhere. Actually, she is in favor of her sister and her wife being stripped of all legal protections the moment they come into their family’s home state. Let me put this more clearly: Liz Cheney is attacking her sister’s dignity and civil equality, in order to advance her political career. In a word, it’s disgusting.
It’s not made any better by Liz Cheney’s response:
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.
To which I would like to respond on behalf of Mary and Heather and the rest of us: fuck your compassion. Just give your sister the basic equality and security for her own family that you have for yours.
If George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are capable of self-reflection and shame at all — and I’m not sure they are — this is something that should keep them awake at night. Neither of them is an anti-gay bigot in the least. Both have family members and close personal friends who are gay. But they still used that bigotry to get themselves into office and to stay there, pandering to their base for political convenience and selling out those loved ones in the process (Obama did the same thing, though to a smaller degree, with his rhetorical games about civil unions and marriage equality, waiting until the polls safely allowed him to come out for full equality at the end of a highly contrived and poll-driven “evolution).
Contrast this with LBJ. Despite being one of the most audaciously corrupt men ever to occupy the White House, he signed the Civil Rights Act despite knowing that it would damage his party politically. He opted for doing the right thing rather than the politically beneficial thing. Bush and Cheney showed no such fortitude or integrity.