(1st Add: Includes comments from Elizabeth Edwards on the controversy.)
(CNSNews.com) - Sen. John Edwards pointedly brought up Mary Cheney's sexuality at the vice presidential debate last week; and on Wednesday, Sen. John F. Kerry did the same thing -- prompting a sharp retort from Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife.
In response to a question about whether homosexuality is a matter of choice, President Bush responded, "I just don't know. I do know that we have a choice to make in America, and that is to treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. It's important that we do that."
Kerry responded, "I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice."
At a post-debate rally in Pittsburgh, Lynne Cheney expressed irritation at Kerry's deliberate reference to her daughter Mary's sexual preference:
"The only thing I can conclude is he is not a good man. I'm speaking as a mom," Mrs. Cheney said. "What a cheap and tawdry political trick."
Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry's campaign manager, called Mary Cheney's sexuality "fair game" in a post-debate interview with Fox News Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, the Kerry campaign defended the senator for mentioning Mary Cheney's lesbianism: "There's nothing wrong with him bringing this up," said Kerry campaign adviser Debra Deshong.
"Maybe you haven't been listening to Dick Cheney," Deshong said in an interview with Fox & Friends. She noted that Vice President Dick Cheney, at an Aug. 24, 2004, town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, stated that "Lynne and I have a gay daughter" in response to a question.
"We see nothing wrong with the fact that someone has a gay member of their family," Deshong told Fox & Friends. "If Lynne Cheney has a problem with that, that's something she needs to solve within the confines of her own family."
Deshong said Mary Cheney is not a "young girl who cannot defend herself." And she said John Kerry was talking about the fact that gay Americans "are part of the fabric of America."
Deshong accused Republicans of using gay issues to divide America.
Also on Thursday morning, Elizabeth Edwards, Sen. Edwards' wife, responded on ABC Radio that she believes Lynne Cheney "overreacted to this and treated it as if it's shameful to have this discussion. I think that's a very sad state of affairs.
"I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences," Edwards added. "It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response."
Sen. Edwards made a reference to the sexual orientation of Mary Cheney in his Oct. 5 debate with Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter...And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy."
Vice President Dick Cheney, in response, simply thanked Sen. Edwards "for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much." He let the subject drop.
Mary Cheney is openly homosexual, but Kerry's and Edward's specific mention of that fact is seen by some as a not-so-subtle effort to turn off conservative Christian voters, who are President Bush's political base -- and who may not know about Mary Cheney.
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