Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Cheney hypocrisy

This post will not make me popular with some people. I don’t care. If there’s one thing that will reliably make me angry it’s hypocrisy, particularly when it results in making things worse for ordinary people.

News broke last week that ex-Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter Mary was legally married June 15 to the woman she’s been with for many years. This ought to be a non-issue, only slightly interesting. But the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Cheney family on the issue of marriage equality means that this far more than a little story, it’s a symbol of what’s wrong with them and other Republican politicos.

As vice president, Cheney stood by silently as George Bush advocated for an amendment to the US Constitution to forever ban marriage equality. While this was merely a sop to the frothing religionists who are the base of the Republican Party, it nevertheless emboldened Republican activists to ramp up their anti-gay rhetoric and energised them to fight against the rights of GLBT Americans.

The anti-gay rhetoric and fearmongering was also used by Bush/Cheney as a campaign tactic three times. Cheney said nothing.

Nearly five years ago, in 2007, the Bushes announced that their daughter Jenna was going to be married. I pointed out the stark contrast:
What struck me about the story was the supreme irony: Bush’s daughter will be able to marry the person she loves, something that Bush and Dick Cheney made sure was denied to Cheney’s daughter, Mary. In the Bush-Cheney universe, some people are simply more equal than others, and Jenna Bush is automatically superior to Mary Cheney, thanks to the work of their fathers.

In this tale of two fathers, Dick gave his daughter away—or her human rights, anyway. What George does at the wedding is just symbolism.
Nothing has softened my view since, not even when, in the twilight of the Bush-Cheney regime, Dick and Lynne Cheney allowed that they kind of supported the right of their daughter to marry. So, quite frankly, it pissed me off to read the Cheney’s official statement about Mary’s wedding:
Mary and Heather have been in a committed relationship for many years, and we are delighted that they were able to take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized. Mary and Heather and their children are very important and much loved members of our family and we wish them every happiness.
Mary can “take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized”, despite the best efforts of Dick Cheney, and he and Lynne are “delighted”. Well, how bloody nice for them! What about the thousands of couples who cannot “take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized” because Cheney and the Republicans made sure they couldn’t? Has this family no sense of shame for what it did?

Of course they don’t—the whole family is filled with hypocrisy on this issue. Lynne Cheney supposedly always supported marriage equality, but, dutiful wife, never said so publicly when it could have made a difference. And if that’s true for her, it’s exponentially more true for Dick, the darling of the far right and neoconservatives alike. Had he spoken out he could have dampened down some of the vile anti-gay rhetoric of the Bush-Cheney years. They both remained silent.

But Mary Cheney isn’t an innocent bystander. She declared that her sexuality shouldn’t be used as in issue by “either side” when she knew damn well it was one, in no small part because the manager of her Dad’s campaign kept making gay people a national campaign issue—successfully. So while Mary wrapped herself in her invisibility cloak, things became much worse for gay and lesbian Americans.

When Mary had her son in 2007, she declared, “This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child.” The right absolutely did NOT view him as “a blessing from God”, and they said so loudly. To the left, the fact that her money and privilege shielded her from the worst of the anti-gay work her father was helping to do only made her stance all the more hypocritical.

So when a spokesperson for a bizarre rightwing “gay” political organisation said of Mary’s wedding, “Mary and Heather have had a tremendous impact on the way America views gay people,” that’s not just wrong, it’s bizarrely stupid. Mary has been a symbol of people willing to sacrifice their integrity and especially their human rights as long as their wealth and privilege allow them to remain invisible. If anything, Mary’s impact was to show that rich white gay people will always put themselves first and use the advantages of their wealth and privilege to shield themselves from the wrongs inflicted on GLBT people by people like Dick Cheney.

Still, I agree with the weird conservative group on one point: “They are demonstrating that gay Americans are just like everyone else.” Okay, richer, more privileged and with better political connections than everyone else, but still the essential point is true: They are just like everyone else in being able to “take advantage of the opportunity to have that relationship recognized.”

Naturally, I won’t be churlish and point out that thanks to the Republican politics of her father, Mary’s taking advantage of the opportunity to have her relationship recognised is irrelevant in the state where she actually lives, Virginia, which bans all recognition of same-sex marriages. She can just consider that fact, and her second-class citizenship, a wedding gift from her dad.

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