Cheney's gay daughter rocks Right
FROM BEN MACINTYRE IN WASHINGTON
THE lesbian daughter of Richard Cheney, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, became the focus of a gay rights dispute within the party yesterday when her mother angrily denied that her daughter had publicly proclaimed her homosexuality. While George W. Bush is seeking to alter the image of his party as hostile to homosexuals and sought to remove anti-homosexual language from the party platform, a spokesman for the Religious Right added to the embarrassment on the convention's eve by condemning the "errant" lifestyle of Mary Cheney, 31.
In a television interview on Sunday night Mr Cheney's wife, Lynne, an outspoken conservative commentator and author, responded furiously when quizzed about her daughter's sexual orientation. The interviewer began: "You have a daughter who has now declared that she is openly gay. Are you worried . . ?"
"Mary has never declared such a thing," Mrs Cheney interrupted. "I have two wonderful daughters. I love them very much. They are bright, they are hard-working, they are decent and I simply am not going to talk about their personal lives."
Ms Cheney is expected to campaign with her father. Her role has been welcomed by homosexual Republicans, but the party's right wing remains deeply opposed to homosexuality. Jerry Falwell, the prominent evangelist and a key figure on the Christian Right, described Ms Cheney as "errant" in a newsletter distributed over the weekend.
Ms Cheney, who lives near Denver with her partner, worked until recently as a liaison officer for the Coors Brewing Company to the gay and lesbian community. Last year a lesbian magazine quoted her as saying she chose to work for Coors because of its "open environment".
She left her job to return to graduate school, but she is expected to suspend her studies in order to play an active role in the campaign.
As part of an effort to reach out to homosexuals, one of the prime-time convention speakers today will be Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman from Arizona, who is gay.
Even before the convention opened, homosexuality was a source of dispute during debate about the party platform. Mr Bush sought to remove some of the harsher anti-gay language, but social conservatives restored it. The platform now endorses the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays, emphasises the party's opposition to homosexual marriage and condemns "the gay lifestyle".
Mr Bush opposes antidiscrimination laws in the workplace, supports a ban on homosexual adoptions and would not allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Mr Cheney was one of 13 congressmen to oppose the first significant Aids testing/counselling Bill and as Defence Secretary strongly opposed allowing gay people into the Forces.
The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of 11,000 gay voters that Mr Bush has met, said that Ms Cheney's sexual orientation would underline the campaign theme of "compassionate conservatism". "It's a very positive thing for this country to see, for the first time in history, someone on a national ticket with an openly gay child," Kevin Ivers, a spokesman, said.
Others, however, pointed out that the official party ideology remained deeply opposed to homosexuality. "The presence of Dick Cheney's daughter is going to focus attention on their anti-gay issues," David Smith, of the Human Rights campaign, told the USA Today newspaper. "The natural question is how do you make anti-gay policies when you have a gay person so close to the ticket?"
Mr Bush is said to have invited Ms Cheney to join the Bush family and friends on stage for the closing night of the convention, but it was not clear last night whether either of Mr Cheney's daughters would join them.
While Mrs Cheney sought to sidestep the issue of her daughter's sexuality, Mr Cheney began backing away from some parts of his deeply conservative voting record. As Democrats launched a $3.5 million (£2.3 million) advertising campaign attacking Mr Cheney's record in Congress, the vice-presidential nominee retreated from some of his more controversial votes on education, equal rights and guns, most notably his vote against a ban on armour-piercing bullets. "I don't want to say that I'm absolutely for cop-killer bullets," Mr Cheney said. "I'm clearly not."
The former Wyoming Congressman said he would not change his vote against a House resolution seeking freedom for Nelson Mandela, the former South African President, when Mr Mandela was in jail. The ANC, Mr Mandela's party, "was then viewed as a terrorist organisation", Mr Cheney said. Bill Clinton weighed in against the former Defence Secretary, saying that Mr Cheney's opposition to freeing Mr Mandela "takes your breath away".
Mr Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, responded: "To go this negative this early in the middle of someone else's convention is a sign of how attack-oriented they are willing to be."
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