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December 1, 2013

MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Cheneys’ feud hits Indiana

Daughter of former VP voices opposition to amendment

INDIANAPOLIS — Oh, it’s on.

If there was any doubt that the coming fight over the same-sex marriage ban amendment in Indiana was going to be elevated to the national level, it’s gone.

A few days ago, Mary Cheney, the gay daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced her opposition to the proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 6, along with her plans to come to Indiana to raise money for an HJR-6 opposition group called Freedom Indiana.

It immediately caught the attention of the national media, who’ve been reporting on the very public split between Mary Cheney and her sister, Liz, a U.S. Senate candidate.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” Mary Cheney wrote in her email to Freedom Indiana supporters. “For me, that’s not just another saying. It’s who I am — the core of what I believe. No one should be denied the fundamental liberties we all deserve.”

The “freedom for everyone” line echoed a remark made by sister Liz in 2009, regarding gay marriage, when she said “freedom means freedom for everybody.”

That was before Liz Cheney decided to launch a Senate campaign in Wyoming. Now, in her attempt to knock off a Republican incumbent in the primary, Liz Cheney has become vocal in her opposition to gay marriage.

Mary Cheney invoked family in her email: “Speaking out against HJR-6 isn’t a matter of politics. It’s about family,” she wrote. “It’s about everyone feeling welcome in the state they call home.”

The involvement of Mary Cheney, who identifies herself as a conservative Republican, is ramping up attention to an issue that GOP leaders who control the Indiana Legislature have been working hard to minimize.

During a recent legislative preview, House Speaker Brian Bosma was disdainful of what he sees as the media’s obsession with HJR-6.

“This is not the most important issue for us by far,” Bosma said of the measure that would lock Indiana’s current ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution. “It will receive 95 percent of the coverage, and it will take 5 percent of the attention of the General Assembly.”

Bosma may be willfully ignoring the fact that HJR-6 has already ignited a family feud within the GOP family in Indiana. As political columnist Brian Howey of Howey Politics Indiana has been reporting, there is a deep divide in the majority House and Senate caucuses over the issue and that a distinct majority of the Indiana Republican Central Committee opposes HJR-6.

Many of the GOP opponents to HJR-6 in the Legislature have opted to refrain from voicing their opposition publicly, preferring to keep the fight within the privacy of the party family.

Two who haven’t have already been targeted by supporters of HJR-6, which include the American Family Association of Indiana, which bills itself as the “state’s premiere decency organization.”

A recent full-page ad that ran in the Shelbyville News invoked Old Testament references in its shot against GOP State Rep. Sean Eberhart, an HJR-6 opponent.

Another ad in the New Albany/Jeffersonville News and Tribune was aimed at GOP Rep. Ed Clere. The ad, featuring an upside-down Republican elephant logo, questions Clere’s loyalty to the Republican Party’s national platform that includes opposition to same-sex marriage.

The ad fails to mention that the Indiana Republican Party, aware from their own polling of the rapidly evolving public opinion on marriage equality, dropped its long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage last year.

Clere has said he opposes HJR-6 because “the proposed amendment helps no one but hurts many.”

Anyone who’s ever been immersed in a family feud can relate to that sentiment.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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