The last presidential debate highlighted clear and significant differences between John Kerry and George Bush on domestic issues like minimum wage, healthcare, education and even gay marriage. George Bush supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage while John Kerry, though he believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, doesn’t.
But if you caught only the postdebate banter, you might not know this. Instead, campaign surrogates and pundits have been obsessed with whether or not John Kerry (and earlier John Edwards) invaded Mary Cheney’s privacy by noting that the Vice President’s daughter is a lesbian.
Did they? I don’t think so.
It’s not like Mary Cheney’s been quietly pursuing lesbianism by playing softball and raising cats in Northampton. She has devoted her entire career to providing cover for lesbian-hating organizations, corporations and political parties.
Before the 2000 campaign she worked as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community for Coors Brewing Company, a rather masochistic occupation, since Coors is just about as antigay as you can get. In the early 1970s Coors required prospective employees to submit to a lie-detector test in which the company asked if the respondent was a homosexual (prompting Harvey Milk to organize a boycott of Coors beer). Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Coors family used generous donations from the Adolph Coors Foundation to launch right-wing groups like the Moral Majority, the Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation–which coined the term “the homosexual agenda” in publications like Gays, AIDS and You. Meanwhile, the company busted unions (leading to an AFL-CIO boycott), and individual family members like William Coors made racist speeches to black audiences claiming “one of the best things that they [slave traders] did for you was to drag your ancestors over here in chains” (this statement led to a boycott by numerous minority groups).
Facing a nationwide protest, the Coors family, which controls both the brewery and the foundation, executed a savvy PR campaign. In 1993 they restricted the Adolph Coors Foundation’s grants to Colorado organizations, while spinning off $36.5 million of unrestricted assets to endow the non-Coors named (though still Coors-controlled) Castle Rock Foundation, which continued to fund far-right groups. And while Coors Brewing extended domestic partnership benefits to gays and lesbians in 1995, its former CEO and favorite son, Peter Coors, is now running for Senate in Colorado on a platform that touts his support of a sweeping constitutional amendment that would not only ban gay marriage but could also eliminate domestic partnership benefits for unmarried couples.
At the very center of the Coors duck and cover operation was Mary Cheney, who was hired as “corporate relations manager for the gay and lesbian market” not because of her PR-savvy but because she was lesbian, a Republican and the daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney. Not that she wasn’t deeply committed to her job: As PR flack she toured the country with 1999 International Mr. Leather to promote Coors beer in gay bars. Cheney was not just a member of the lesbian community but a market analyst who researched, cultivated and delivered that community to a corporate dynasty seeking to paint over decades of active support for homophobic causes.