Hey, Mary Cheney's pregnant! ABC News (along with other media outlets) reports today that Cheney and her longtime partner, Heather Poe, are expecting a baby in the spring. It's hard to know how to treat the news. Sure, it's nice that the couple is expecting, and it's fun to think that their nontraditional family will be rolling up to future White House Christmas parties. Vice President and Mrs. Cheney are reportedly "looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild," which is also swell. As the daughter of the Bush administration's neoconservative vice president and an out lesbian, though, Mary Cheney has long been a lightning rod for arguments concerning gays, lesbians and the Christian right wing. And as always, it's tough to reconcile the Cheneys' private pride with their public support of a political platform that seeks to deny rights to gays.
Apparently we're not the only ones feeling a little conflicted. Social conservatives were pretty bilious in reaction to the news, ABC's Jake Tapper reports. Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America called the pregnancy "wrong," telling ABC that "they're deliberately bringing a child into the world without a father, leaving a great gaping hole. Father absence is the biggest problem we're facing in this country ... the root cause of all sorts of negative outcomes -- drug use, juvenile delinquency, you name it." Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center director Robert Knight sees severe consequences for Cheney and Poe's decision: "Mary and Heather can believe what they want, but what they're seeking is to force others to bless their non-marital relationship as marriage [and to] create a culture that is based on sexual anarchy instead of marriage and family values," he blustered. You heard that right: Anarchy in the U.S.A.!
It's easy to find satisfaction (if not schadenfreude) in the conservative consternation over the Cheney family's good news; we love to see a right-wing schism, especially over narrow-minded family-values rhetoric. But the happy announcement also highlights the sad fact that most states' policies don't reflect the real-life diversity of American families. Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of gay and lesbian advocacy group Family Pride, noted that "as Mary and Heather enter into the life-changing roles of parents, they will quickly face the reality that no matter how loved their child will be -- by its mothers and its grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and close family friends -- he or she will never have the same protections that other children born to heterosexual couples enjoy. Mary and Heather currently live in Virginia. Unless they move to a handful of less restrictive states, Heather will never be able to have a legal relationship with her child." For Cheney and Poe, that's unfortunate; for same-sex couples who have fewer material and legal resources, it's even worse.
Surprisingly, after reading Tapper's piece, it was "sexual anarchy" worrywart Knight who left us with a tiny shred of optimism about the standoff between policy and reality. "The Cheney situation clearly tempered what Mr. Bush said about the marriage issue," he said. "He may have backed the marriage amendment, but he didn't really put a lot of effort into it." It's a long shot, but we'll cross our fingers that the newest Cheney helps push federal and state policy in a more inclusive and realistic direction.