Former Vice President Dick Cheney hit the media spotlight with his speech at the American Enterprise Institute last month on the serious and ongoing threat terrorism poses to the United States. He defended the Bush administration’s record in the war on terror and took strong issue with some of the words and policies of the current president. The speech earned him high marks, particularly among conservatives eager to hear their ideas defended with such vigor and conviction. Then — after Cheney had burnished his conservative credentials — he showed that he does not toe the party line on all issues. Speaking on Monday at the National Press Club, he once again publicly parted company with George W. Bush on gay marriage. The former vice president reiterated a point he has made since the 2000 vice presidential debate — that we should take a federal approach to recognition of same-sex unions:
I think that freedom means freedom for everyone. And, as many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish. The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don’t support. I do believe that the historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. … But I don’t have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that.
Citing these remarks at the left of center Huffington Post, Sam Stein said the Republican former vice president had taken “a position that places him at a more progressive tilt than President Obama.” Yet while liberal bloggers are taking note of Cheney’s “progressive” stand, the various gay organizations which have been at the forefront of the efforts to secure recognition of same-sex marriage in states across the country have been silent. There was no mention of the Republican’s remarks on the websites of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California (EQCA), and Freedom to Marry. That last organization defines itself as “the gay and non-gay partnership working to win marriage equality nationwide.” Its primary issue is advancing state recognition of same-sex marriage, but apparently its leaders don’t think it noteworthy when a respected conservative distinguishes himself from the party which still lionizes him on their issue.
It’s not just these groups’ websites that were silent. Google searches for the names of the leaders of the organizations cited above — Joe Solmonese, Rea Carey, Kate Kendell, Geoff Kors and Evan Wolfson, respectively — turned up nothing. You’d think they’d want to highlight Cheney’s remarks given the high marks he has earned from a political group whose members tend to strongly oppose gay marriage. If more conservatives, particularly those only marginally opposed to gay marriage, knew about this good man’s views they might reconsider their own views. After all, they’re likely to listen to a man they respect.
While the gay groups failed to acknowledge the Republican taking a more progressive stand on gay marriage than the current Democratic president, HRC’s Solmonese took the time to praise President Obama for nominating Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and highlight the president’s proclamation of “June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” Despite her silence on Cheney’s comments, NGLTF’s Carey issued a statement responding to the recent murder of Kansas abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller. They address issues only tangentially related to their mission, but ignore Cheney’s statement on an issue of direct concern to them. Must be that pesky (R) after his name.
At least some of the left-of-center gay blogs did acknowledge the Republican’s support of a federal approach to state recognition of same-sex unions. Queerty and Towleroad may have used the occasion to take pot shots at the former vice president (the latter called him “surly and offended” when his daughter’s sexuality had been brought up in the past), but at least they acknowledge his words. As did Barbara Walters.
Meanwhile, the folks at Queerty dismiss the Republican former vice president as providing only lip service to the cause of gay marriage. They contend that he, like Obama, doesn’t have “much action to speak of.” But most gay groups still sing hosannas to the Democrat while ignoring the Republican. It seems that rhetoric does count — unless a Republican delivers it.