Conservative leaders voiced dismay Wednesday at news that Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney, is pregnant, while a gay-rights group said the vice president faces "a lifetime of sleepless nights" for serving in an administration that has opposed recognition of same-sex couples.
Mary Cheney, 37, and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, 45, are expecting a baby in late spring, said Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the vice president.
"The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation" to the arrival of their sixth grandchild, McBride said.
Mary Cheney was an aide to her father during the 2004 campaign, and now is vice president for consumer advocacy at AOL. She and Poe moved from Colorado to Virginia a year ago to be closer to the Cheney family.
Family Pride, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian families, noted that Virginia last month became one of 27 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
"Unless they move to a handful of less restrictive states, Heather will never be able to have a legal relationship with her child," said Family Pride executive director Jennifer Chrisler.
The couple "will quickly face the reality that no matter how loved their child will be. … he or she will never have the same protections that other children born to heterosexual couples enjoy," Chrisler said. "Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children."
For years, Mary Cheney’s openness about her sexual orientation had posed a dilemma for conservative activists who admire Dick Cheney’s stance on many issues but consider homosexuality a sin.
Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."
"It’s very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group’s think tank. "They are encouraging people who don’t have the advantages they have."
Crouse said there was no doubt that the news would, in conservatives’ eyes, be damaging to the Bush administration, which already has been chided by some leaders on the right for what they felt was halfhearted commitment to anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights causes in this year’s general election.
Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the newly announced pregnancy as unwise.
"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn’t mean it’s a good idea," said. "Love can’t replace a mother and a father."
The vice president’s office declined to elaborate on the circumstances of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy.
The news was welcomed by the president of the largest national gay-rights group, Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign.
"Mary and Heather’s decision to have a child is an example that families in America come in all different shapes and sizes," he said. "The bottom line is that a family is made up of love and commitment."