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Sexual Orientation in the Political Arena

August 13, 2000

"Personal" is the word when the topic of Lynne Cheney's lesbian daughter Mary comes up ("Sexuality and Family in the Political Spotlight," Aug. 4). Yet Cheney loves to let the world know that daughter Elizabeth is married and has three children. Sounds like a "Declaration of Heterosexuality" to me.

--STEPHEN MAY

Los Angeles

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I was disappointed to see that The Times, like so many others in the news media, has missed the central point about the fact that vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney has an openly lesbian daughter. Contrary to what was written, Mary Cheney's sexual orientation is not "essentially a private matter." When a person enters public life at the level of Dick Cheney, matters that might be considered private among truly private figures become fair game for public debate. Bill Clinton had to discuss Gennifer Flowers (let alone Monica Lewinsky). John McCain had to talk about his divorce. George W. had to explain his drinking.

In fact, Mary Cheney's lesbianism and how Dick Cheney feels about it are arguably much more relevant to the public than were McCain's divorce and Clinton's infidelities. The issue of gay rights is one of the most significant differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. Where does Dick Cheney stand on [gay rights] issues? If he does support discrimination against his lesbian daughter, then America deserves an explanation.

Moreover, what about his wife's baldfaced lie to Cokie Roberts that Mary had never declared that she was a lesbian? By all reports, Mary came out to her parents in the early 1990s. And when I first met her three years ago, she was essentially "a professional lesbian" for the Coors Brewing Co., leading their corporate giving and outreach program to lesbian and gay organizations around the nation. There is no real dispute that she has declared herself to be a lesbian, in spite of Mrs. Cheney's assertion to the contrary. Is lying right out of the gate the approach of the family of the man who has vowed to help "restore integrity" to the White House?

--LORRI L. JEAN

Former executive director

L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

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Few things have angered me more as a professional journalist than the Los Angeles Times coverage of Mary Cheney. It took your paper a full 48 hours to make so much as an indirect reference to the simple fact that she is a lesbian, even after Republican party operatives "broke" the story with a plant in the New York Post. To read that "Although Mary Cheney, 31, has apparently never made a formal, public statement about her sexual identity," is simply mind-boggling. Is every gay and lesbian individual required to make The Full Oprah before The Times feels it's OK to mention it?

Gays and lesbians have been fighting tooth and nail for free and open lives for the past 30 years. Yet the press persists in seeing being gay or lesbian as something too shameful to mention matter-of-factly--somewhere halfway between a clubfoot and excessive bed-wetting. As long as this persists, gays and lesbians are kept "in their place," and the Heterosexual Dictatorship (Christopher Isherwood's deadly accurate term) keeps rolling along.

--DAVID EHRENSTEIN

Los Angeles

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Let's see, Sen. Barry Goldwater's grandson and grandniece, Newt Gingrich's half-sister, Sen. Pete Knight's son, Sonny Bono's daughter and now Dick Cheney's daughter. Are we seeing a new trend? Conservatives overwhelmingly believe that homosexuality is a choice, and a bad choice. So, when their loved ones make such "bad" choices, their conservative family members must have done a lousy job in instructing them about the "moral" life, right? Or maybe these hypocrites will be forced to accept reality, that it isn't a choice. Of course, they'd only be doing that to avoid the thought that they were bad parents. And then, God forbid, they might conclude that the "plague" of homosexuality is genetic, and guess what? It runs in their family! Either way, they lose, and I'm laughing my head off.

--ANNA MENDIOLA

Santa Ana

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