Mary Cheney, the vice president's openly gay daughter and political adviser, has revealed today that she is pregnant, bringing good news to the vice president's family and a profoundly disappointed and upset reaction from Christian conservatives.
Many in this key Republican constituency say that it's a disaster for the vice president's daughter to have a child without an apparent father.
"The vice president and Mrs. Cheney are looking forward with eager anticipation to the arrival of their sixth grandchild," spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said to ABC News.
McBride would not answer questions about how the child was conceived, or say whether the vice president considered Heather Poe, Mary Cheney's partner of 15 years, the other mother of the child.
While Grandma and Grandpa Cheney are no doubt celebrating the pregnancy, the fact that their sixth grandchild will have two mommies is potentially awkward for the Bush administration.
The administration has called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and won re-election in 2004 in no small part because of its opposition to gay and lesbian marriage.
Many political observers believe that issue helped motivate Christian conservatives to the polls, especially in key swing states such as Ohio, where a statewide referendum banning same-sex marriage was on the ballot.
"I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman," President Bush said to the applause of an Iowa crowd on Oct. 26, 2006, after the New Jersey Supreme Court instructed the state legislature to provide the same legal rights to same-sex couples as to straight couples.
The court left it up to lawmakers to decide whether such arrangements would be called "marriage."
"And I believe it's a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families, and it must be defended," Bush said.
As Texas governor, Bush opposed gay couples being able to legally adopt.
"I believe children ought to be adopted in families with a woman and a man who are married," he said.
In an interview last year with The New York Times, the president said "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."
Vice President Dick Cheney has said that he opposes a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage, preferring to leave that up to the states.
Mary Cheney clearly disagrees with her father's boss, the man she worked hard to re-elect in 2000 and 2004.
Earlier this year, she told ABC News' Diane Sawyer that "every study has confirmed what matters is that children are raised in a loving and supportive environment. And there's no reason why that can't be provided by a same-sex couple."
She also told Sawyer that from her perspective, "Heather and I already are married. We have built a home and a life together. 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."
The Culture War
As news of Cheney's pregnancy hit Washington today, it quickly emerged as an issue in the battle between entrenched groups representing differing views of morality in the country.
In an interview with ABC News, Janice Crouse, an official with the conservative advocacy group Concerned Women for America, called Cheney's pregnancy "wrong."
"They're deliberately bringing a child into the world without a father, leaving a great gaping hole," Crouse said.
"Father absence is the biggest problem we're facing in this country," she said, and "the root cause of all sorts of negative outcomes -- drug use, juvenile delinquency. You name it."
Similar sentiments were expressed by Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center.
"I think it's tragic that a child has been conceived with the express purpose of denying it a father," Knight said.
"Fatherhood is important and always will be, so if Mary and her partner indicate that that is a trivial matter, they're shortchanging this child from the start."
"Mary and Heather can believe what they want," Knight said, "but what they're seeking is to force others to bless their nonmarital relationship as marriage" and to "create a culture that is based on sexual anarchy instead of marriage and family values."
Conversely, Jennifer Chrisler, the executive director of Family Pride, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian parents and their families, seized upon Cheney's baby news to underline what she sees as injustice.
"As Mary and Heather enter into the life-changing roles of parents, they will quickly face the reality that no matter how loved their child will be -- by its mothers and its grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and close family friends -- he or she will never have the same protections that other children born to heterosexual couples enjoy," Chrisler said.
"Mary and Heather currently live in Virginia. Unless they move to a handful of less restrictive states, Heather will never be able to have a legal relationship with her child" because Mary Cheney will be the birth mother and Virginia does not recognize the legal status of same-sex couples.
Chrisler added that Grandfather Cheney "has been complicit in the largest full-scale attack on the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community in modern history. … Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children."
Cheney's office said it would not have any comment on Mary's pregnancy beyond its statement this morning.
In Davenport, Iowa, in August 2004, the vice president said that, "With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to."
Some conservatives believe that Mary Cheney's lesbianism has tempered Bush's support for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
"The Cheney situation clearly tempered what Mr. Bush said about the marriage issue," Knight said. "He may have backed the marriage amendment, but he didn't really put a lot of effort into it."
Karen Travers contributed to this report