Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of U.S. vice president Dick Cheney, has resigned from the board of the Republican Unity Coalition slightly more than one year after taking on the largely honorary post with the gay-straight political alliance.
Cheney, who once marketed beer to the gay and lesbian community as an employee of the Coors Brewing Co. of Golden, Colo., has been one of the few key gay rights supporters with close ties to the White House. "Working together, we can expand the Republican Party's outreach to nontraditional Republicans," she said in a statement when she signed on with RUC in April 2002. "We can make sexual orientation a nonissue for the Republican Party, and we can help achieve equality for all gay and lesbian Americans." She made no public statements about her departure, and she did not respond to calls from The Advocate regarding it. In the past she has labored to stay out of the political limelight and to avoid becoming a lightning rod for criticism, pro and con, over gay rights in the contentious GOP.
A source close to the Cheney family said Mary Cheney's resignation from RUC will allow her to pursue business interests in her home state of Colorado, where she lives with her partner, Heather Poe. But some gay activists suggest that there may be more behind the decision, since it comes on the heels of protests from the religious right regarding pro-gay comments by GOP chairman Marc Racicot. "Leaders of the extreme right are demanding that the GOP back away from any association with the gay community," said David Smith, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C., gay rights group. "The Right is calling into question what little outreach the party had to gay voters at the crossroads of an election season. While I can't speculate on the reasons for her decision, Mary Cheney's departure definitely comes at an interesting time."
The RUC--which was founded and is chaired by Charles Francis, an openly gay friend of President Bush--also recently announced that David Rockefeller, the 87-year-old scion of the liberal Republican family, would join the group's board.