Dick Cheney defends Liz in daughters' same-sex marriage feud

Amid an escalating feud between his two daughters over the issue of same-sex marriage, former Vice President Dick Cheney has weighed into defend Liz Cheney, who is running to become the next senator of Wyoming.

"This is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public," said a statement issued by Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. "Since it has, one thing should be clear. Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect, exactly as she should have done. Compassion is called for, even when there is disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz's many kindnesses shouldn't be used to distort her position."

The dispute broke out after Liz Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday" that while she loves her sister Mary, who is openly gay and married, the matter of same-sex marriage "is just an issue on which we disagree."

Mary Cheney's spouse, Heather Poe, responded with an angry note on Facebook that read, "Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 - she didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least." Poe also alluded to criticism aimed at Liz Cheney for running for the Senate in Wyoming even though she hasn't lived there in recent years, saying, "I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other."

Mary Cheney shared the status on her own Facebook page, writing, "Couldn't have said it better myself. Liz - this isn't just an issue on which we disagree - you're just wrong - and on the wrong side of history."

Dick Cheney, who was vice president under George W. Bush, has been supportive of states making the decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

Liz Cheney followed in her father's opposition to federal action on same-sex marriage. On "Fox News Sunday," she said, "it's an issue that's got to be left up to the state," but also added that, "I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage."

Liz Cheney, who is challenging Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., in the Republican primary, has come under fire from the American Principles Fund, a conservative super PAC that is running ads accusing her of wavering on her opposition to same-sex marriage because she opposed a constitutional amendment banning the practice and because of her support for the State Department's decision to extend benefits to same-sex partners.

"I don't believe we've got to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. If people are in a same-sex relationship and they want their partner to be able to have health benefits or be designated as a beneficiary on their life insurance, there's no reason they shouldn't do that," she said Sunday.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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