Washington Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife and mother of a lesbian, said Sunday that states should have the final say over the legal status of personal relationships.
That stand puts her at odds with the vice president on the need for the constitutional amendment now under debate in the Senate that effectively would ban gay marriage.
"I think that the constitutional amendment discussion will give us an opportunity to look for ways to discuss ways in which we can keep the authority of the states intact," Cheney told CNN's "Late Edition."
The Senate began debate Friday on an amendment that defines marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
Supporters acknowledge the proposal is endorsed by only about half the Senate, well short of the two-thirds needed to approve a change in the Constitution. Still, a vote would put lawmakers on the spot in an election year as they seek to balance backing traditional marriage and gay rights.
Cheney has two daughters, both of whom are working in his campaign. The Cheney's gay daughter, Mary, is director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. She held a public role as her father's assistant in the 2000 campaign and helped the GOP recruit gay voters during the 2002 midterm elections.
She has been less visible this year while traveling with the vice president or working at campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va. As the election nears, she will play a more public role, campaign aides say.
President Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday that legalizing gay marriage would redefine the most fundamental institution of civilization. A constitutional amendment is needed to protect marriage, he said.
During the 2000 campaign, vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney took the position states should decide legal issues about personal relationships and that people should be free to enter relationships of their choosing.
When Massachusetts' high court ruled last year that gay couples are entitled to wed, the issue became a very hot political topic. Republicans hope it will take votes away from the Democratic presidential ticket.
Both Bush and Cheney have voiced their support this year for the proposed constitutional amendment. Their Democratic rivals, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, oppose the amendment.
The Democrats also oppose gay marriage, but defend a gay couple's rights to the same legal protections as those conferred in marriage.
Asked Sunday about her husband's stand on gay marriage in 2004, Lynne Cheney said, "I thought that the formulation he used in 2000 was very good.
"First of all, to be clear that people should be free to enter into their relationships that they choose. And, secondly, to recognize what's historically been the situation, that when it comes to conferring legal status on relationships, that is a matter left to the states," she said.
Lynne Cheney said the situation in 2004 was somewhat different from the one four years ago because of the Massachusetts court ruling and its effect on states.
Asked again about the difference between the Democrats and the Bush administration on the amendment, Cheney reaffirmed her preference for local solutions.
The vice president's press office had no immediate comment Sunday.