A Child Born of Vice

| Wed Dec. 6, 2006 3:42 PM EST

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Mary Cheney, the vice president's 37-year-old lesbian daughter, is pregnant. In Virginia. Last month, Virginia passed an absurdly stringent amendment [PDF] barring domestic partnership benefits—ostensibly for same-sex couples, but the amendment was worded so vigorously that many expect it will affect straight couples as well.

Virginia Republicans strongly supported the measure. Although the younger Cheney called it "a gross affront to gays and lesbians everywhere," in the past she has campaigned for her father, Darth Vader of the Republican Storm Trooper army.

So where does the amendment leave Heather Poe, Mary's partner of 15 years? Nowhere, it seems. Virginia's notoriously conservative courts are leading the charge to deny same-sex partners any rights to the children they help raise. Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride, the largest gay-lesbian family advocacy group in the country, said that unless the couple moves to a "less restrictive" state, "Heather will never be able to have a legal relationship with her child."

If the couple were to split up, Heather would be especially screwed because her credentials can't compete with Mary's. Cheney has a high-powered corporate job at AOL. Heather is a "former park ranger," who is now renovating the couple's Great Falls, Virginia, home. If history is any guide, the V.P. wouldn't hesitate to use his friendships with judges to get what he wants. Cheney appears to be supportive of Mary and Heather's relationship, but he has, according to Chrisler, "been complicit in the largest full-scale attack on the LGBT community in modern history." It seems safe to say he'd want Mary to have full custody.

For now, the Washington Post reports that the vice president is "looking forward with eager anticipation" to Mary's baby's birth. But can you imagine Dick "Dick" Cheney smiling?