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November 18th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Cheney vs. Cheney: Sisters Liz and Mary's public disagreement over same-sex marriage

(CNN) - It is a family dispute that is not uncommon in this era, with Americans split on whether same-sex marriage should be legal – 52% to 43% according to the Pew Research Center. The difference is of course that this is one of the highest profile families in the nation, the Cheneys – dad was vice president, daughter Mary was for a time one of the best known openly lesbian Republicans in the country, and now daughter Liz is running for Senate in Wyoming.

Liz's public statement Sunday that she disagrees with her sister's right to marry her longtime partner has made this family spat very public.

Sure, dad Dick Cheney is one of the more controversial vice presidents in modern history, but it is the Cheney daughters, Mary and Liz, who are causing a stir.

In one corner: Mary, who in the 1990s did outreach to the gay and lesbian community for Coors. She married her longtime partner Heather Poe in 2012 in Washington, D.C. They have two children.

In the other: Liz, the older sister, a current contender in a Senate race who recently announced her opposition to same-sex marriage.

This is a family brouhaha that's been brewing for some time. CNN's Jake Tapper asked their dad about the possible tension three weeks ago.

TAPPER: Obviously, your other daughter, Mary, married her long-time partner –

CHENEY: Um-hmm.

TAPPER: – last year. I assume that Liz, you, the whole family was there and supportive. I know you've – you were, for many years, to the left of President Obama when it came to some of these issues. Is that going to be an awkward Christmas table conversation?

CHENEY: Well, I, uh, my position on - on that issue is well known, I - and I've stated it in 2000 in a debate with Joe Lieberman. It hasn't changed. And I'll let my daughters speak for themselves.

And boy, are they. On Sunday afternoon, Liz Cheney stated her position on Fox News.

"I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage," Liz said. "I love Mary very much, I love her family very much, this is just an issue on which we disagree."

Later, Mary's wife Heather responded on Facebook saying, "When Mary and I got married in 2012 – [Liz] didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least."

Heather even took a veiled shot at Liz's carpetbagger status – "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other."

Almost immediately afterwards, Mary jumped in for some Facebook feather ruffling of her own, writing, "Couldn't have said it better myself. Liz – this isn't just an issue on which we disagree – you're just wrong – and on the wrong side of history."

It should be noted that by opposing a federal marriage amendment, Liz has a more liberal point of view on this than former President George W. Bush held in 2000 and 2004; Mary worked on both campaigns. Gay and lesbian rights groups criticized the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign for using opposition to same-sex marriage as a way to rally conservative voters to the polls.

That was tough for Mary.

"I actually came very close to quitting the campaign in 2004 over this very issue," Mary explained to late night host David Letterman in 2006. "My position was as a campaign staffer, and quite frankly I think it's inappropriate for campaign staffers to issue their own public policy statements."

Though apparently not tough enough.

"The important thing in 2004 was national security," she said.

Liz Cheney told CNN's Jake Tapper this morning, "I love my sister and her family and have always tried to be compassionate towards them. I believe that is the Christian way to behave."

Mary Cheney told The New York Times that she will not be seeing her sister over Christmas break, when they are all supposed to be in Wyoming.

"What amazes me is that she says she's running to be a new generation of leader," Mary said. "I'm not sure how sticking to the positions of the last 20 or 30 years is the best way to do that."

The former vice president and Mrs. Cheney released a statement on the family rift, saying, "This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public."

"Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz's many kindnesses shouldn't be used to distort her position," the Cheneys added.

A recent poll in Wyoming found 57% opposition to same-sex marriage, and 32% support.

An ad from the American Principles Fund Super PAC from the American Principles Fund Super PAC has in part lit the fuse in this Cheney family kerfuffle. The ad has been running again her in Wyoming, which hits Liz Cheney on opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment and supporting benefits for same sex couples who work at the State Department.

Liz is the only Republican the group has taken on in the 2014 cycle.

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