Lynne Cheney wants you to know that she's evolved. Or at least evolving.
America's "second lady" is on a media blitz promoting her new book, Blue Skies, No Fences, and appeared yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about everything from criticisms about her husband (which she finds "surreal"), to her future in politics (she doesn't seem inclined to run for anything), and, yes, her views on gays. Cheney, mother to America's "second lesbian" (is Ellen the first?) told CBS that, "I think the society has evolved. I've evolved in my way of thinking, but I think the whole society has evolved. You know, my mother had a rule which was people are just people."
CBS says that the issue of LGBT Americans "is sensitive to her as the mother of a gay daughter."
Thinking back to her own school-yard days, Cheney remembers that, the "world of prom dates and being homecoming queen was not open to everyone - African Americans, for example. And she writes that the times 'were hard on kids who were gay,'" according to CBS.
So there you have it: Lynne knew a few gay people long before Mary came along, thank you very much.
Mrs. Cheney, who has served as chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, also has more of a history with the gay community (in literature, as well as family) than most people might know. She was the author of the cult classic Sisters, a pulp fiction tale of love, lust and longing . . . among lesbians. Cheney's ode to Sapphism has become such a collectors' item, in fact, that it regularly fetches hundreds of dollars on websites like eBay.
But of course, it is Cheney's sudden yearning to talk about her evolution on our community that is most curious. In 2004, during the presidential race, Lynne was reportedly furious with Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards for mentioning that the second family has an openly gay daughter. According to the Washington Post, while Dick was upset, "Lynne Cheney, Mary's mother, was even more incensed. She called it 'a cheap and tawdry political trick. . . . The only thing I can conclude is he's not a good man. I'm speaking as a mom.'"
Kerry and Edwards, of course, had simply pointed out the obvious: Mary is a lesbian (I mean, have you seen that hair?) and the Cheneys, as any good parents would do, love their daughter nonetheless.
Pointing out that parents care about their LGBT children, apparently, is "a cheap and tawdry political trick," but pointing out that you're evolving on the issue because of that same child is as good a reason as any to use when selling books.
I actually believe the Cheneys do love their daughter, are proud of her and have evolved on the issue since she came out. The problem, though, is that it's not enough to reflect on in a book, or during an interview with CBS News. The problem is that, while the administration they are a part of was using gays to divide the electorate, trying to constitutionally ban loving relationships among gay couples and propping up a ban on gays in the military, the Cheneys were too silent.
I hope Lynne Cheney's evolution will spur her to do something now (better late than never, right?), but all the while she and her husband were silent, dark clouds were gathering and big fences were being built all around the GOP's "big tent." As a result, there were no "Blue Skies, No Fences" for Mary and the millions of other LGBT Americans who deserved a little bit of both. When it came to doing something meaningful, people weren't just people after all.