Froma Harrop

is a columnist

for the Providence Journal

Samuel David Cheney has two mommies, and isn't that nice? asks a stay-at-home mother I'll call Joanna. A conventional housewife, Joanna is happy that her two young sons and baby girl have a daddy, but she says, "Boy, wouldn't it be great to let Mommy No. 2 take over while I get my hair done?"

As the global village knows, Vice President Cheney's new grandson comes into this world by way of his daughter Mary and an anonymous sperm donor. Samuel will be raised by Mary and her lesbian partner, Heather Poe.

That Joanna sees much logic in the arrangement says something about our changing culture. Joanna is a churchgoing, conscientious parent who lives in a conservative corner of Houston.

May I put in a nice word for Dick Cheney? In my political storybook, he usually plays the environment wrecker, corporate moneyman, hawk with five deferments, or champion of fossil-fuel supremacy.

But the picture of Cheney and his wife, Lynne, proudly holding their new grandson - that touched me. They had honored their lesbian daughter with the same starchy older-generation pose they'd have used had the other parent been a hairy-chested airline pilot named Chuck.

The expression on Cheney's face looked genuinely sweet and warm and gentle. I saw no traces of "Oh, my God, how did this happen to me?"

And I have to hand Cheney this: He has never been a hypocrite on same-sex relationships or other phenomena that pain social conservatives. Asked during the 2004 reelection campaign about gay marriage, Cheney strayed from the party line. Refusing to portray it as a dagger aimed at civilization, he blandly opined instead that same-sex nuptials should be a matter for the states.

Even when defending his less attractive views, Cheney gets points for honesty. He has always pursued self-interest in a straightforward manner, never hiding his reverence for mammon under a veil of religiosity.

In December, Focus on the Family head James Dobson wrote about Mary and Heather's parenting plans with mild disapproval. He said the ideal family environment for the baby would include a father. Dobson cited research showing that fathers and mothers impart different ideals, all of them important, to their children.

I happen to agree with him on that, all things being equal. But all things are rarely equal. I've seen gay parents raise terrific children and heterosexual ones produce disastrous ones. Two mommies with their heads screwed on straight beat a messed up mommy-and-daddy any day - not to mention a one-parent household headed by a stressed-to-the-nines single mother.

And since the bulk of child-rearing usually ends up in the woman's lap, having another mom in the house can greatly ease the load. Long before many lesbian couples began to start families openly, there have been two-mommy households, only we didn't call them that.

In traditional families, grandmothers often join the mothering team. Well-to-do households frequently hire nannies, who may do so much of the work that they become the de facto mother-in-chief. So Samuel Cheney is not breaking any ground in having two women raise him.

"It would be great to have another woman in the picture," Joanna says. She looks on Mary and Heather's household with some envy.

"You're both on the same page about what needs to be done at home," she says. "When guests come, you have help cleaning the house and making the hors d'oeuvres. A man would work on fixing the garage door."

So at least one battle in the culture war seems to be coming to a conclusion. If otherwise traditional folk smile on lesbian parenthood, can letting these parents marry be far behind?