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The Nation

Gay-Rights Group Seeks an Ally in Cheney Daughter

Website urges Mary Cheney, an open lesbian, to publicly oppose a same-sex marriage ban.

February 21, 2004|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, may be out of the closet, but one gay-rights group is trying to drag her into the spotlight.

Cheney's openly lesbian daughter is the target of a new website urging her to use her political visibility to protect the rights of homosexual couples. The 9-day-old site, www.DearMary.com, features virtual postcards written by visitors exhorting her to publicly oppose a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"We very much launched this as an effort of psychological warfare against the vice president," said John Aravosis, a Washington political consultant and writer who helped create the site.

"My intent was for him to wake up Monday morning and see this in the newspapers, and say, 'Oh my God.' This battle's gotten personal."

President Bush has recently considered backing a constitutional ban on same-sex unions. Although Dick Cheney initially said during the 2000 campaign that gay marriage was at states' discretion, he told the Denver Post last month that he "will support whatever decision [Bush] makes."

The already contentious issue has grown pricklier in the wake of the approximately 3,000 gay marriages performed in San Francisco since Feb. 12, which Bush has said "troubled" him.

The DearMary website has received about 6,000 personal messages -- both in favor of and against gay marriage -- 25,000 visitors a day and $8,000 in donations.

"You could change the world, Mary," reads one letter posted on the site. "Won't you help? Haven't we suffered enough?"

DearMary.com is part of larger effort to fight a constitutional ban of same-sex unions, www.DontAmend.com, which launched last summer and organized 24 rallies nationwide on Valentine's Day weekend.

Aravosis said at least 80% of the money raised from the Cheney site will be earmarked for purchasing issue advertisements, like a prototype ad featuring Mary's face on a milk carton emblazoned with the words "Have You Seen Me?"

The rest will pay for site maintenance and organizing rallies.

Aravosis hopes to organize a protest outside Bush-Cheney headquarters in Arlington, Va.

A Bush-Cheney campaign spokesperson declined to comment on the site.

This sort of online grass-roots movement is nothing new to Aravosis. Four years ago, he and Los Angeles activist and comedian Robin Tyler launched a successful Internet advertising boycott of talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger -- www.StopDrLaura.com -- in response to anti-gay comments she made on her radio show.

Organizers Aravosis and Tyler explain on the DearMary site's home page their reasoning for leveling criticism at Mary Cheney: "As an open lesbian who has worked for years as a public advocate for gay civil rights, you are in a unique position to defend yourself and your community in this dire hour."

Mary Cheney, 34, who formerly worked for the Coors Brewing Co. as a liaison to gay and minority communities, became active in politics as her father returned to public office.

She served as an aide to her father during the 2000 campaign and is now director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney reelection effort.

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