Speaking in Davenport, Iowa, on 24 August, US vice president Dick Cheney made it clear he does not support President George W. Bush’s drive to amend the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Cheney’s lesbian daughter, Mary, was in the audience as he spoke. She is director of vice-presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Cheney was asked: I need to know, sir, from your heart -“ I don’t want to know what your advisers think or even your top adviser -“ I need to know, what do you think about homosexual marriages?

The vice president replied: Well, the question has come up in the past with respect to the question of gay marriage. Lynne and I have a gay daughter so it’s an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters and we have enormous pride in both of them, they’re both fine young women and they do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us, and we were blessed with both our daughters.

My general view is that freedom means freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with respect to the issue of marriage is, what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government, if you will, to the particular relationship?

Historically, Cheney said, that’s been a relationship that’s been handled by the states. States have made the basic fundamental decision what constitutes a marriage. I made clear four years ago when this question came up in my debate with Joe Lieberman that my view was that that’s appropriately a matter for the states to decide and that’s how it ought to best be handled.

The president has, as a result of the decisions made in Massachusetts this year by judges, felt that he wanted to support a constitutional amendment to define at the federal level what constitutes marriage, that his perception was that the courts in effect were beginning to change without the people being involved, without their being part of the political process -“ that the courts, in this case a court in Massachusetts, were making the judgment or the decision for the entire country, and he disagreed with that. So where we’re at at this point is, he’s come out in support of a federal constitutional amendment and I don’t think that, so far, it hasn’t had the votes to pass.

There is the federal Defence of Marriage Act that passed in 1996 and, to date, it has not been successfully challenged in the court, and it may be sufficient to resolve the issue, Cheney said. At this point my own preference is as I’ve stated, but the president makes basic policy for this administration and he’s made it clear that he does in fact support an amendment on this issue.

Cheney’s remarks come on the heels of recent comments by Bush supporting partnership rights for same-sex couples.

On 12 August, CNN’s Larry King asked Bush, What about the union of gays?

The president responded: Well, that’s up to states, you know. If states choose to do that -“ in other words, if they want to provide legal protections for gays, that’s great. That’s fine. But I do not want to change the definition of marriage. I don’t think our country should -“ from the traditional definition of marriage that’s between a man and a woman.

And I want to say something about this debate, Bush added. It is a debate that must be conducted with the greatest respect for people. And that my judgment -“ I think our society is great because people are able to live their lifestyles, you know, as they choose or as they’re oriented.

You know, he said, people have said to me, well, if you’re gay, you can’t inherit because -“ and you don’t get the exemption from income tax. Well, my answer there is get rid of the inheritance tax forever, the death tax, which I’m trying to do. And there are ways to make sure gays have got rights. And you can do so in the law.

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