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Liz Cheney hit from right on gay marriage

A conservative outside group is attacking Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney (R) over gay marriage, an issue that has divided her own family.

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The ad hits Cheney for opposing a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Liz Cheney — whose sister, Mary, last year married a woman named Heather Poe — does not support same-sex marriage.

But she believes the decision should be made by individual states, a distinction not included in the ad from the American Principles Fund.

The ad instead highlights comments Liz Cheney made on MSNBC in 2009 backing the State Department's decision to extend benefits to same-sex partners.

"MSNBC: The go-to network for Barack Obama and Washington’s liberal elites. So what's Liz Cheney doing here?” the ad’s narrator says.

“In Wyoming, Cheney campaigns as a conservative. In Washington, she appears on MSNBC to campaign against the marriage amendment and support government benefits for gay couples.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman for American Principles Fund, said the ad is the first in a planned campaign to push Republican candidates across the country to support a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

“We want to show Republicans they don't have to run away from this position," she told The Hill. "They can win by embracing traditional marriage."

“Our goal as a PAC is to show that these social issues can be winning issues for the GOP if we embrace them ... We'll continue to do that over the next year and a half leading up to the November 2014 elections.”

Huckabee Sanders said her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), is not “directly involved” with the group but might be used in future ads.

Cheney’s campaign fired back.

"This is a dishonest smear by an out-of-state super-PAC,” Cheney spokeswoman Kara Ahern said. “The people of Wyoming deserve better."

Ahern pointed to comments from Cheney in February that “marriage is between a man and a woman” and that the matter should be decided at the state level. She followed that up with comments in August affirming her personal opposition to gay marriage.

"I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves," she said then.

That position drew criticism from Mary Cheney, who said her sister was "dead wrong" on the issue.

In the MSBNC interview from 2009, Cheney didn’t label herself as for or against gay marriage.

When a host asked her if she supported it, as the host thought, she responded that the issue should be left to the states. She voiced support for some legal benefits for same-sex couples, as the ad points out.

The American Principles Fund ad is the first to air in the contentious primary between Cheney and longtime Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). Enzi is seen as the early favorite in the race.

Huckabee Sanders said it’s not good enough for Liz Cheney to state personal opposition to gay marriage.

“She's running for federal office, so there are no comments that she's made at any point that she'll protect marriage at the federal level whatsoever,” Huckabee Sanders says.

“I don't think it's misleading given her position. She's against the federal marriage amendment and she's running for federal office.”

Sanders said there was a “very clear contrast” between Cheney’s position and Enzi’s and that the race would be a priority for the group going forward.

This story was first posted at 9:25 a.m. and has been updated.