Were Dick Cheney not a Republican and not, in the eyes of the left, the most reviled member of the most reviled administration in history, he would leave office with gay leaders and advocates singing his praises. For Dick Cheney leaves office today as the most pro-gay vice president in the history of our country.
Known as a vice president very loyal to the president, Cheney almost never disagreed with George W. Bush since Bush tapped the former defense secretary as his running mate in July 2000. On gay issues, however, Cheney frequently made public statements that went beyond the president’s official policies and, at least once, directly opposed them.
He first distinguished himself from Bush on October 5, 2000, in the vice presidential debate. While Bush had not taken a public position on state recognition of same-sex unions, his record in Texas indicated that he was not in favor.
When debate moderator Bernard Shaw asked, “Should a male who loves a male and a female who loves a female have all — all the constitutional rights enjoyed by every American citizen,” one might thus have expected Bush’s running mate to offer an equivocal response. But Cheney did not mince words:
We live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We shouldn’t be able to choose and say you get to live free and you don’t. That means people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It’s no one’s business in terms of regulating behavior in that regard. The next step then, of course, is the question you ask of whether or not there ought to be some kind of official sanction of the relationships or if they should be treated the same as a traditional marriage. … I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that’s appropriate. … We ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.
In this debate, he didn’t take issue with something his running mate had said or even suggested. Instead, he offered an opinion that some social conservatives, part of the president’s base, might find offensive.
Once elected, however, he would take issue with a public stand Bush had taken on a gay issue. It would be the first — and only time — he would publicly disagree with his running mate in their first term in office.