Mary Cheney Considered Quitting 2004 Campaign Over Gay Marriage Issue

She says she considered quitting her role as campaign adviser over the issue of gay marriage, but Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary Cheney tells ABC News "Primetime" anchor Diane Sawyer her sexuality has never created problems within her family.

Mary Cheney discussed the campaign, her feelings about President Bush, life with her partner of 14 years, and what it was like to come out as gay to her parents.

"I struggled with my decision to stay on the 2004 campaign," Cheney told "Primetime." Her personal challenge came when President Bush said the nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.

When Bush proclaimed it in the State of the Union, she refused to go. Mary Cheney, a senior campaign adviser, was finally taking her stand.

"I didn't want to be there. No one banned me from being there. But I didn't want to stand up and cheer," she said.

She says the president offered to let her give a public statement in disagreement, and her father indicated publicly he disagreed with his boss on the issue. She declined but says she did talk with her family about quitting the campaign.

Cheney has had to deal with hearing hateful names about gays and lesbians from the right wing of her own party. And gay rights activists say that Cheney's silence is just a form of hypocrisy. They even made a milk carton that said, "Mary Cheney Missing."

She jokes about that. "That's ... ooh, God, that's a nice picture."

Her reply to their criticism is simple. "We each have to choose our own path," she said. "I respect their opinion. But it is not the path that I would choose for myself."

Coming Out in High School

With everyone from reporters to politicians to activists offering their opinions about Mary Cheney and her choices, she said it's time for her to tell her own story in her political memoir, "Now It's My Turn."

Mary Cheney is very much her father's daughter. She even has her father's crooked smile. Growing up, she was a daddy's girl who, since she was a child, went with him on hunting trips and fishing expeditions.

When she was 9 years old, she wore a sandwich board that said "Honk for Cheney" for her dad's first campaign -- a congressional seat from Wyoming, which he won.

She was in her early teens, she writes, when she knew somehow she was different.

"There's not a moment I can ever point to and say that's when I knew I was different. That's when I knew I was gay," she said. "It just was sort of this thing that dawned on me over time."

Cheney was a junior in high school when she and her first girlfriend broke up. She was so distraught she wrecked the car and says she had to tell her parents the truth.

She first told her mother, Lynne. "And it took a few minutes for mom to understand because I, I think at first she thought it was maybe just the most amazing excuse ever for a car accident," she said.

But she said her mother's first reaction was to be worried about the prejudice she would face from other people.

"And she ... she burst into tears and gave me a hug, but once I explained to her that it would actually be harder for me to lie about who I am, she came around pretty quickly," Cheney said.

A few hours later, she told her father. "He's just this great even-keeled guy, and I told him and his reaction was, 'You know, look, you're my daughter and I love you and I just want you to be happy.' And that was it," she said.

Balancing the Personal and Political

And today the Cheney family includes Mary's partner of 14 years, Heather Poe.

"She is smart, she is funny, she is probably the most generous person I've ever met," Cheney said of Heather. "Since my dad was first nominated, she has been my rock."

But what is it to be Mary Cheney inside her parents' Republican party -- a party that opposes civil rights legislation protecting gays? A party that says in its platform that homosexuality is incompatible with military service?

If her father weren't vice president, would she still be a Republican? Cheney says she doesn't like to answer "hypothetical questions."

But she does say that if her father weren't on the ticket with Bush in 2004, she would still support the president.

"I think he's a very good man," Cheney said of Bush. "On these issues, he hasn't caught up."

Cheney is now back in private life, working at AOL and says inside her family, she and Heather are free to be themselves in love. Sawyer asked Cheney if she and Heather planned to marry.

"Well, from my perspective? Heather and I already are married," she said. "We have built a home and a life together. Um, I hope I get to spend the rest of my life with her. The way I look at it, is we're just waiting for state and federal law to catch up with us."

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