The Corner

On Dennis Prager, the Cheneys, Marriage . . . and God’s Grace

I have been internally debating whether to weigh in on the Cheney sisters/homosexual “marriage” debate — in part because I think in some ways this is a case where the less that is said, the better, mainly out of respect for the Cheney family’s privacy — but now that Dennis Prager has written his excellent piece here at NRO, it seems appropriate both to endorse his remarks and to offer a few additional thoughts.

First, by rights this should be nobody’s business but the Cheney family’s. Andrew Sullivan and his ilk (as quoted by Prager) especially are dead wrong to so harshly criticize Dick and Lynne Cheney merely for setting the record straight about Liz’s position. The Cheneys always have handled this issue with dignity and class — remember how the vice president dealt with the smarmy attempt of John Edwards to make hay of it during their debate? — and they did so again here. All they did was note that Liz’s position hasn’t changed, and that it is perfectly possible to show genuine love for a sibling, and to be emotionally supportive, while disagreeing with the sibling’s choice. That is exactly what Liz did, and it is to her credit. It’s not as if she went out of her way to make same-sex unions a political issue; she was asked about it, after she was targeted politically on the subject, so she outlined her position (and in a way more nuanced than is credited by the Sullivans and Maureen Dowds of the world). She did so without denigrating homosexuals, without demagoguing the issue, without histrionics. 

Despite what the leftists might assert, opposition to homosexual marriage does not necessarily entail a single bit of hatred, nor is it akin in any way to other civil-rights battles such as the courageous struggle against Jim Crow, et cetera. It might be beating a dead horse to say so again, but being black is an immutable characteristic; sex (and marriage) are acts/behaviors. One can oppose certain behaviors (or policies relating thereto) without being hateful; one can take a position against conferring a privilege (marriage positively sanctioned by the state) without maltreating somebody (which was what happened in numerous ways under Jim Crow). Prager is right to say that it is “left-wing totalitarianism” to demand lockstep opinion on such a public-policy position. (And Sullivan is just factually wrong to accuse Liz Cheney of “publicly attack[ing] [her] own sister’s family,” when Liz did nothing of the sort, but merely said the issue should be left to the states and the people.

But there’s more to say. The particularly biting issue with the Cheneys is the charge of hypocrisy leveled by Heather Poe (Mary Cheney’s partner) at Liz Cheney, based on the fact that Liz spent time with their family and wished them happiness. This is sheer and utter nonsense. 

Some years ago, a dear friend of mine who happens to be lesbian invited me (and many other mutual friends) to attend her “ceremony of union” (or some such term) with her partner, to be performed at a particularly liberal Episcopal church we both had attended. They didn’t call it a “marriage,” but it was a ceremony in a church — which was a bit problematic for me, because as a matter of theology I do not favor such church ceremonies. (Full disclosure: As a matter of public policy, I oppose state-sanctioned homosexual “marriage,” while supporting entirely the rights of individuals to make whatever contractual arrangements — inheritance arrangements, hospital visitation rights, et cetera — they desire as long as no fraud is involved.) But I didn’t need to think more than about 15 minutes before accepting the invitation, and I found myself (minus the sibling relationship) in very much the same position as Liz Cheney vis-à-vis Mary: I could unhesitatingly offer continued friendship and support, and wishes for God’s grace and joy, even while not approving the ceremony itself. Indeed, my prayer, repeated several times silently during the service, was as follows (or as close as twelve years’ memory will allow):

O God our Father, I am uncomfortable with this ceremony, and my understanding of Your will is that this does not comport with Your will. But that is not my business; it is a matter between [my friend] and You, and I leave it to You to judge, to show mercy — and to correct me for my own beliefs if my beliefs are mistaken. Either way, I ask You always to bring my friends [X] and [Y] in Your direction, to bless them as individuals, to recognize and reward the great kindnesses in their hearts, and to do whatever is necessary to prepare them for Your everlasting kingdom. These are two wonderful human beings, and I ask not only for You to love them but for Your grace to afford me the heart to love them as friends and as Your fellow children. Amen.

Different people have different faults. We are all sinners. God knows our hearts and our consciences. We are all called to love the drunkard although we don’t approve of the drunkenness, and we support laws against gross public intoxication. We are all called to love the adulterer although we do not approve of the adultery, and we support divorce laws allocating resources in favor of adultery’s victims rather than its perpetrators if the adultery does indeed lead to divorce. So it is with homosexual acts: If they are indeed sinful (which is a matter only God knows for sure, although His Word seems rather clear), it does not make the sinner any less worthy of our love — but that means neither that we are hypocrites for not wanting to provide a positive imprimatur for the actions nor that we have shown any particular virtue by wishing God’s joy to the homosexual. 

In the case of gay marriage, the public issue isn’t even one of sin, but of what is good public policy, which is even a further step removed from offering a personal judgment about the virtue of those to be so joined. By analogy, one can believe that private gambling is perfectly okay, while still opposing state licensing of for-profit casinos. It is not “hateful” to oppose casinos, and it is not inherently hateful to oppose federal recognition of homosexual marriage.

By the very accounts of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe, Liz Cheney behaved exactly as a loving sister ought to behave, by expressing genuine love for Mary and Heather and wishing that they find joy. Those expressions were not hypocritical, but to her credit — or whatever credit is actually due to human beings whose very duty it is to do whatever little we can to be vessels for the far-greater love God constantly shows for all His creatures.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally stated that Liz Cheney attended her sister Mary’s wedding; she did not. It has since been corrected.

Quin Hillyer — In addition to National Review, Quin Hillyer has written for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New Republic, The Guardian (UK), and Investor’s Business Daily.

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