WASHINGTON -- Dick Cheney is part of a lobbying campaign to convince at least one Maryland state lawmaker to back marriage equality, the Baltimore Sun reported on Thursday. Since leaving the vice president's office, Cheney has been increasingly vocal in his support for same-sex marriage, but the extent of his engagement on the issue was not previously well known.
The Sun story, flagged by John Aravosis at AMERICAblog, focused on the fight in the state over Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) bill to legalize gay marriage. It revealed that Maryland Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore) had been offered an opportunity to chat with Cheney, ostensibly to convince him to support marriage equality.
Kach (R-Baltimore) had been widely expected to vote against the legislation. He told the Sun that he changed his mind and decided to support it after hearing testimony from committed same-sex couples during a hearing last week, which went on for nearly 11 hours. In addition, Kach received some pressure from high-profile national Republicans:
He also became the target of a last-minute lobby effort, and said his voice mail was full of messages from important people, including [former Republican National Committee chair Ken] Mehlman, [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg and an offer to talk with former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Kach regards as a "great man." All three are recognized for their support of gay rights issues.
"I don't know if this report is true, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is," said Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and executive director of the pro-LGBT rights group GOProud. "Vice President Cheney, who owns a home in Maryland, has always said that the states should decide this issue and that the federal government shouldn't have a policy regarding marriage. He has also stated that he is in favor of same sex civil marriage."
A high-profile Republican close to Cheney told The Huffington Post that they had not heard about the former vice president's involvement. Another source close to Cheney pushed back against the report. Cheney's office was not immediately available for comment.
Cheney has, for years, been one of the most prominent Republican supporters of same-sex marriage.
"I think that freedom means freedom for everyone. As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish," he said in 2009, placing him in the rare position of being more progressive than President Barack Obama on a policy issue.
If the Maryland General Assembly approves O'Malley's legislation, the state would become the eighth to legalize marriage equality.
UPDATE: 3:10 p.m. -- R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement, "Vice President Cheney has been a conservative champion for the freedom to marry since he spoke the words, 'freedom means freedom for everybody.' As a member of the Bush-Cheney administration and executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, I am proud and grateful that he has chosen to lend his voice to securing marriage in Maryland."