Mary Cheney Opens Up on Dad, Gay Marriage

05/04/2006 at 05:25 PM EDT

Mary Cheney Opens Up on Dad, Gay Marriage
Michael ONeill
Mary Cheney, the first openly gay daughter of a U.S. Vice President, is ready to talk – but on her terms. In her new book, Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life, Cheney, 37, finally speaks out on being a George Bush Republican; a supporter of gay marriage; a devoted partner to Heather Poe, 45; and a target of the public eye ("You have to do what you're going to do, and do what you know is right," she says).

Last year, Cheney – an executive at AOL – moved closer to the political realm, settling outside Washington, D.C., with Poe. In her first print interview, she gives PEOPLE an inside glimpse of her homelife and a behind-the-scenes look at working on Dad's campaigns.

Why write a book after avoiding the spotlight for so long?
It's been six years since my dad was first chosen to be the running mate. In that time, everybody from presidential candidates to activists on the far right and on the far left to the mainstream media have offered up their opinions regarding me, my family and my point of view. Like the title of the book says, now it's my turn.

Did you keep a journal while working for your dad during the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns? How did you recall so much detail?
I wish I were that organized. I'd get my mom, dad and sister all sitting around the table at the VPR (Vice President's Residence) and go down memory lane. It actually was a lot of fun. My parents were completely encouraging.

Your mother, Lynne, also is a published author. Did she give you advice?
She was the best advisor, mentor, teacher I could have had. My mom was a great source of inspiration. We've had disagreements over serial commas, but that's about it.

What in the book will surprise the reader?
The notion that I was muzzled somehow, that people kept me from talking during the campaign. One thing that comes through in the book is the truth. I didn't speak out during the campaign because, quite frankly, I thought it would be inappropriate.

Any other surprises?
A lot of people have the idea that political campaigns are these well-oiled machines. There are a lot of misadventures and missed opportunities on the way. One huge missed opportunity I talk about in the book is the debate I arranged between my mother and Teresa Heinz Kerry. That would have rivaled the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

You were director of vice presidential operations on the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, but you didn't agree when President Bush announced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban same-sex marriages?
When President Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment, he let me know he would understand if I wanted to put out a statement. For me, that would have been so inappropriate. I signed on to be a staffer; I didn't sign on to express my own point of view.

But now you can state your opinion on same sex marriage?
I am in favor of legalized same sex marriage. I make it clear in the book I passionately disagree with President Bush on the issue of the Federal Marriage Amendment. But I also make it very clear that I had no doubt, even with that disagreement, that President Bush was the absolute best person to be leading us at this time in our country's history. It would be great to have the luxury of being a one-issue voter, but I didn't, and quite frankly, I don't think our country does.

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