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Keynote Address from Mary Cheney at the Log Cabin Republicans 2014 Spirit of Lincoln Event

Keynote Address from Mary Cheney at the Log Cabin Republicans 2014 Spirit of Lincoln Event

Sep 17, 2014

Thank you very much.

Thank you Gregory for that kind introduction.

I would also like to thank the Log Cabin Republicans — particularly the board of directors and the Liberty Education Forum for making it possible for me to be here this evening.

And, of course, thanks to all of you for being here — and for supporting this great organization.

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to be invited to speak with you this evening — because even though I am a long time Washingtonian and make my living as a political consultant, I’m not known as the speechmaker in the family. I’m not running for anything. I don’t have a book to sell and I’m not angling for a job or a television contract.

On second thought – maybe I’m not a real Washingtonian.

But I’m here tonight because you were kind enough to ask, and because I know who my friends are. The Log Cabin Republicans stand for values close to my heart and critical to our country’s future. I believe in the cause you serve, the cause of freedom and equality. And I’m proud to stand with you. That cause is worth all that we put into it, because today’s Log Cabin Republicans are helping to prepare the way for tomorrow’s Republican majority.

I want to be very clear here. I am not a Republican with reservations, comfortable with some core convictions but not with others. I am not a conflicted conservative, struggling to reconcile personal views with settled principles. Sometimes you hear people speak as if freedom and equality for gay Americans requires some sort of radical departure from the ideals of the party of Lincoln. And this never fails to amaze me — because I always thought freedom and equality were the ideals of the party of Lincoln.

For the record – I’m a conservative. I believe that the free market can almost always find a better, faster, and more creative solution to a problem than the government can.

I believe in the Bill of Rights, and when I read it – I don’t skip from the First Amendment to the Third. The right of citizens to keep and bear arms is critically important for our nation, and I am proud to be a responsible gun owner.

And I believe that Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “Man is not free unless Government is limited.”

And it is as a conservative that I believe the cornerstone of our society isn’t the government — it’s the family. And because of that — I believe our society must do everything we can to ensure that all families have the greatest opportunity for success.

I’ve said it before — and I’m sure I will say it again – all families — regardless of how they look, how they’re made or where they live — all families deserve to be treated with the same respect, dignity, legal rights and recognitions as every other — I firmly believe that.

And I firmly believe that that is the true conservative position.

As Prime Minister Cameron said when he spoke in support of marriage equality in Great Britain, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a conservative.”

By now, I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that this is an issue about which I have some rather strong feelings and one which is deeply personal for me.

As some of you may know, my partner, Heather, and I have been together for twenty-two years and we have two absolutely incredible children: a seven-year old son named Sam and a four-year old daughter named Sarah. Like most parents, we spend our weekends ferrying children to soccer games, ice-skating lessons and birthday parties – and all four of us are eagerly counting down the days to our upcoming trip to Disney World.

A little over two years ago, on the twentieth anniversary of our first date, Heather and I went before a judge here in DC and were legally married.

So here we are, two committed adults, entirely devoted to each other and to loving and raising our children together — yet depending on which state we happen to be in — we may or may not be considered a family under the law.

I know I’m not the only person in this room who has experienced firsthand what it feels like to have the law, or anyone else, say your family isn’t a real family. Trust me – you tend to take it kind of personally.

But fortunately — times and opinions are changing – and changing fast.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, public opinion polls showed that only 25% of Americans supported same sex marriage.

In 2004, during the debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment, just over 1/3 of Americans said they supported equality.

Fast forward another ten years and a majority of Americans now support marriage equality — and, by my last count, same sex couples can now get legally married in nineteen states and the District of Columbia.

Momentum is certainly on the side of equality and it is moving far faster than anyone anticipated — certainly faster than I ever hoped. But even if, as many people hope, the Supreme Court decides to take up the issue this term — and even if the justices rule once and for all in favor of marriage equality — that’s not going to be the end of the battle — at least not the political battle.

There will still be much work to do — particularly when it comes to educating and changing people’s perceptions of same sex families.

And despite what some of our friends on the other side of the aisle may say — true equality cannot be achieved without support from both democrats and republicans. It’s only when marriage stops being treated as a partisan issue and starts being dealt with as a human rights issue that true equality will become a reality.

And that’s why I have been so happy to see the changes that are starting to take hold in the Republican Party.

We now have elected leaders like Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mark Kirk, Charlie Dent, Susan Collins and others all publicly supporting marriage equality.

And earlier this year, a Pew Research poll revealed that a majority of Republicans under the age of 50 support marriage equality — lending a great deal of credence to the argument that the fight over marriage is becoming less of a partisan debate and more of a generational one instead.

Now I’m not normally known for being an overly optimistic, warm and fuzzy, everything is sunshine and roses kind of person — it may be genetic — but the changes we are starting to see in the Republican party have made me increasingly hopeful about both the future of equality and the future of our party.

You know, when I first started thinking about what I wanted to say here tonight, I decided to go back and look at what I wrote in 2005.

Back then, I said that I had no doubt that opposition to same sex marriage and support for the Federal Marriage Amendment helped many Republican candidates in the 2004 elections, and that it may continue to help them over the next few cycles, but that ultimately, candidates who support discrimination will face an electorate that sees their views as prejudiced and intolerant.

I also said that if the Republican Party fails to come around on this issue, that it would find itself on the wrong side of history and on a sharp decline into irrelevance.

Pretty strong words — and words that I still hold to be true.

But now at least I have real hope that that prediction will not come to pass.

You can tell times are changing when support for marriage equality no longer automatically sinks a candidate in a Republican primary — something Congressman Richard Hanna taught us in New York.

Or when the most notable political ad being run on the marriage issue this cycle is from a Republican senate candidate in Oregon touting her support for marriage equality.

And, it was big news last year when my friend Senator Rob Portman became the first sitting Republican Senator to speak out in support of marriage equality. That was an act of great political courage, even if Rob himself would say he was just being honest.

But, personally, I look forward to the day when such an act takes no courage at all, the day when the Republican Party is finally and firmly on the side of equality.

So how do we get there?

Part of the answer, I believe, is right here in the spirit and agenda of the Log Cabin Republicans. Over the next two years, America will be as ready as ever to hear the Republican Party’s best case, and our fellow Republicans will be as ready as ever to hear our best case. And frankly, those two cases are related. Simply and clearly affirming the rights and dignity of gay men and women will not make us a weaker party — it will help make us a majority party.

We haven’t come this far without an awful lot of confidence in the justness of our cause.

History accords special credit to those who express true convictions before they are popular ideas. I sometimes have to remind my more liberal friends of the answer to this trivia question: Who was the first major party nominee for national office who refused to oppose gay marriage? Here’s a hint: He’s well known for packing an awful lot of meaning into as few words as possible, and he practically gave this cause its motto when he said, “We live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody.”

Fourteen years after my dad first spoke those words in a nationally televised debate, they don’t seem quite so daring as they did back then. And one reason for that is that Log Cabin, and other like-minded efforts, have got people thinking. You’ve accepted the challenge of persuading. You have been persistent and offered reasoned arguments, not just blunt demands and accusations. And quite frankly that makes all the difference.

I’ve always believed that the most successful causes and campaigns don’t involve forcing people to abandon their principles; instead, they ask men and women to apply their principles and to live up to them. That’s a good mission for an organization to have, and one that Log Cabin has been carrying out for years.

Maybe it would all have unfolded in such a way naturally, and in the fullness of time. But I think it would have been a much longer wait, were it not for the work and organizing of dedicated activists. We owe them all a debt of thanks, including those who did our party an immense, enduring service in the founding of Log Cabin Republicans. You stood up, spoke out, and called the party of Lincoln to follow its own, clearly stated convictions and ideals of freedom and equality.

And in a political culture that seems to grow coarser by the day, you set an unwavering standard of principled action, perseverance, and class.

To point out the obvious, you were ahead of your time. And even though the Republican Party still has some catching up to do, you have set great things in motion, both for the party and for our country.

I’m so proud to be here tonight, and I’m very grateful and proud to call you all my friends.

Thank you.

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