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Why Nothing About Mary?

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Richard and Lynne Cheney have two daughters. And last week Bush-Cheney campaign spokespeople were happy to inform reporters that daughter Elizabeth, 34, is married and has three children. When reporters asked about Mary Cheney's personal life, however, they were told the campaign wouldn't discuss it.

Last week Mary Cheney, 31, stayed in Wyoming after her dad's debut rally. She was away from the suburban Denver home she shares with her girlfriend Heather and away from the constantly ringing phone. She was torn over how to handle press inquiries about her homosexuality. "I love my father," she told an acquaintance. "I don't want to be a distraction."

While friends say her relationship with her father is obviously strong, her relationship to his campaign is more muddled. Bush officials said the Governor invited her on the campaign trail, and Lynne Cheney told TIME both her daughters would accept. But Mary Cheney got the feeling that the campaign wanted to say as little about her as possible, according to a friend.

"She's encouraging people to call the campaign, because that will force them to come up with some answers," said Mike Smith, a Denver gay activist who has known Cheney for three years. But coming up with those answers would be interpreted as putting Mary's relationship on an equal footing with her sister's. That would be a major departure for a party that has traditionally supported the right of employers to fire gay people.

Mary Cheney isn't a gay activist. But until May, she worked for Coors Brewing Co. as liaison to the gay community, and she gave buckets of the brewer's money to gay causes. ("She was one of our secret weapons in terms of donations," an activist said.) She traveled the country defending the company at meetings of gay radicals who oppose the G.O.P. politics of the Coors family. "Coors has come a long way," she told a gay paper in 1998. "It's a company that really listened to us."

But have her parents? Will Bush? For months, the Governor waffled on whether he would hire someone like Mary--an openly gay person--in his administration before saying sexuality wasn't a factor for him. As a Congressman in the '80s, her dad routinely voted for antigay bills. But he has never smeared gays in personal terms, and contrary to her reputation as a culture warrior, Lynne Cheney hasn't either. When Mary came out to her in the early '90s, Lynne quietly asked gay Republican friends for advice.

The Cheneys made clear last week that they love their daughter. And Mary Cheney seemed eager to get back to the Colorado outdoors (she loves to golf) and start business school. For now, she's keeping quiet about Dad's politics. "It must be very tough for her to feel that second-class status implied by his positions," says Dee Mosbacher, the lesbian daughter of Robert Mosbacher, Commerce Secretary under Bush's father. "I've come a long way with my own father, but it takes a lot of discussion."


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Cover Date: July 31, 2000

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