By Robert Scheer
Thank the Almighty, whatever that might mean, for planting the seed of life in the lesbian body of Mary Cheney and for granting her parents the opportunity to show support for a homosexual couple raising a child in an atmosphere of love. The message, carried prominently in news reports throughout the world, is that America has come of age in recognizing, as do most truly modern countries, that homosexuality is indeed normal.
Perhaps they knew not what they did, but the picture the White House released of Vice President Dick Cheney, coming as close as he does to a smile, and his beaming wife, Lynne, cradling their newborn grandson, Samuel David Cheney, was a milestone in the nation’s struggle for human rights for all. Never again will it be possible for conservative Republicans to shun homosexuals in any facet of American life without appearing outrageously hypocritical.
If it is right for Mary Cheney and Heather Poe, partners of 15 years, to be entrusted with the birthing and raising of a child, then how is it logical, as this White House has insisted, to deny the legal status of marriage to same-sex couples seeking to have their commitment legally acknowledged? Does not the life of Mary Cheney, born to God-fearing parents in a home of presumably high moral tone, and herself an activist in the Republican Party that has exploited homophobia for temporal political advantage, definitively answer the argument that homosexuality is not a fickle choice but a facet of the natural order of things? On what basis could this nation logically deny Mary Cheney the right to equal participation in any aspect of our publicly governed life, be it through military or civic institutions?
The problem is that the inalienable human rights to freedom and the pursuit of happiness do not, according to the law, apply to Mary Cheney. Living as she does in Virginia, she must assume full responsibility for her child without being able to legally rely on her partner, who has no state-recognized connection to the child. As another example of the absurd contradictions that mark the law in this area, had Mary Cheney sought to fight in the war in Iraq, which her father did so much to cause, she would have been rejected because of the very honesty she exhibited in her personal life.
Surely Mary Cheney’s commitment to a monogamous relationship would indicate that she would be less likely to engage in any sexual philandering that might disturb the tranquility of barracks life. One cannot imagine her participating in the abuse, with its bizarre perversion of same-sex contact, that heterosexual men and women in the U.S. military staged at Abu Ghraib prison to the shock of the world. And certainly her energetic work as a staffer in the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign should provide ample assurance that homosexuals can be as mindlessly pro-war as anyone. Given that papa Cheney ducked the draft when it was his turn to fight, a Mary Cheney in the military would have done much to demonstrate that this family is willing to share in the sacrifice they demand from others.
But what of the future of baby Samuel David Cheney? Considering the homophobia that his grandpa’s Grand Old Party has perpetuated in past decades, it is not likely that he will have an easy time. Chances are overwhelming that he will turn out heterosexual—and admiring of his homosexual parents—given the statistical precedents. After all, the mind-numbing contradiction in any public discussion of the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” is that the gay community often approximates the ideal of hardworking, taxpaying stability that has provided a healthy core to the renewal of just about every city in the red or blue zone.
Yes, baby Samuel, even in the care of far less famous gay couples, would be more likely exposed to the best family values, not to mention a higher level of art, music and croissants, than he would had he been born to a heterosexual family. But if the GOP base that put Cheney in power continues to have its way with our politics, the stigma that has tainted Mary Cheney’s life will harm the vice president’s grandson in ways that are as varied as they are immoral. So how about it, Grandpa? Take the next step and join PFLAG, or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, whose members have done so much to redress the grievances with which you have long been associated.
David Bohrer / The White House
Family Portrait: Lynne and Dick Cheney present their new grandson, Samuel David, to the world.