If Mary Cheney, the openly lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, was gratified by her father's display of public opposition to a President Bush-backed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage while appearing in Iowa last week, she hasn't let it show, two campaign aides told The New York Times. But aides say she was clearly displeased the next day to find the cameras of the traveling press corps craning for shots of her face. "She does not seek the limelight," said Mary Matalin, an adviser to Cheney and friend of the family. "It just goes with the beast that if you are in the public eye, it is going to happen. But she does not seek to be in the public eye."
As Cheney arrived in New York with her father on Sunday for the Republican convention--a traditional showcase for candidates' adoring families--her role in the vice president's campaign is becoming a subject of intense speculation on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate, the Times reports. Some on each side contend that the campaign is using her presence and her father's comments to soften its image and appeal to moderate voters at a time when the nation's attention is focused on the convention. But ultraconservatives like Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago, complain that Dick Cheney's public support for his daughter "demoralizes some sections of the base that they need in an election where we could all be counting chads again."
Gay rights advocates, on the other hand, accuse Mary Cheney of selling out gays to aid her father's campaign. "There is a profound sense of bewilderment, bordering on betrayal," Matt Foreman, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told the Times. "How is it possible that you could be working so hard for an Administration that is so against your basic life, so against you and any family aspirations you might have, and against your people? I understand father-daughter ties, but it seems impossible to reconcile."
Mary Cheney, through a campaign spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed. She sat in a box with her father and mother, Lynne Cheney, at the 2000 convention, and in addition to working with her father behind the scenes throughout the week, she will likely be with him at the convention again this year. Lynne Cheney will introduce the vice president, and their other daughter, Elizabeth, is scheduled to speak on Tuesday at a campaign event for women. President Bush's twin daughters are also expected to make public appearances during the convention. But Mary Cheney will not have a speaking role, aides say.
Friends of the Cheney family insist that Dick Cheney's comments in Iowa--that "people ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to"--were heartfelt. "I don't think it was done as a calculated thing," Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming and a close friend of the Cheney family, told the Times. Simpson recalled a tense confrontation on the campaign trail when one of Bush's Christian conservative backers advised Dick Cheney to "pray for" his daughter Mary and "to urge her away from her aberration." "Dick just stared at him," Simpson recalled. "If you said that to Dick or Lynne Cheney, you will get a look that would sizzle your underwear, I tell you."