Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ricketts Family Friction Finally Makes the News

by Kyle Michaelis
Today's Omaha World-Herald finally reported on the division between Republican Senate challenger Pete Ricketts and his sister Laura on the controversial issues of legalizing gay marriage and writing fundamentally discriminatory language into the U.S. Constitution. The story doesn't add much to what was reported a month and a half ago here at NNN, though it is nice to get the obligatory "no comment" from Ricketts on the record.

The World-Herald reports:
As Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ricketts campaigns on a platform that supports traditional marriage, his sister sits on the board of a national group that is fighting Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage.

Laura Ricketts serves on the board of directors of Lambda Legal, a group dedicated to the civil rights of gay men and lesbians. It is one of three organizations challenging Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage in court.

Her brother is running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson in the November election. Pete Ricketts has spoken out in opposition to same-sex marriage on the campaign trail and in his early political advertising.

The Ricketts siblings declined repeated requests to discuss their polar-opposite views on gay marriage.

"I love my sister. I disagree with her on this issue. What more is there to say?" said Pete Ricketts, who declined further comment.

Laura Ricketts, a lawyer who lives in Chicago, did not respond to telephone calls or e-mail messages. A spokeswoman for the Ricketts campaign said Laura Ricketts did not wish to comment for this article....

In early television advertisements, Pete Ricketts highlighted traditional marriage as one of his core "Nebraska values."

He has said he would support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and said he opposes any federal regulations that would require businesses or others to provide domestic partner benefits to employees.

For as outspoken and active as the Ricketts siblings have been on their respective sides of this issue, it really is sort of sad that they're not willing to use their high-profile positions of prominence and privilege to engage the public in this debate.

That said, it's understandable that the Ricketts campaign would be uncomfortable with such a discussion. Having engaged in the right-wing sport of exploiting the love between homosexual partners for political gain, there's no truly reconciling such actions with the love Ricketts attests for his sister. Running on a campaign agenda that would see your sister made a second-class citizen may appeal to hard-core conservative activists but doesn't easily fit into most voters' idea of family values.

Of course, we don't want voters to think about this issue in terms so humanizing of those who are actually affected by it. It's better for Ricketts' purposes to play on cultural insecurities and the majority's false sense of victimization, imagining the struggle for equal rights as an assault on marriage itself. To acknowledge that these are real people seeking justice - not just those dastardly liberal, activist judges but also our friends, neighbors, and family members - muddies the waters and makes Ricketts' subtle message of intolerance so much more difficult a sale.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again you were ahead of the media on an issue.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fed up to the brim with people telling me (us) what "Nebraska Values" are. Are Nebraska Values written down some place that I don't know about? Maybe I should Google bigotry. Other definitions anyone?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commend Laura Ricketts for her obvious commitment to true family values. That is, for valuing her relationships with individuals in her family (Pete, to name only one of several) enough to take the private high road on this issue. She has been bated by media to engage for months now on this issue that she clearly feels strongly about (given her long-term personal and financial efforts for the gay civil rights cause).

I too had hoped that she would help to usher in a public discussion on this charged issue. Perhaps those of us who hope for people like Laura to stand up should reconsider her circumstances. Should she make her personal relationships with her family public so that the media could pick them apart? Should she use her brother’s campaign efforts to advance her cause? What would it really accomplish—genuine dialogue or more polarization? Should Pete lose, is there a risk of being blamed for her brother’s loss?

I believe that if Laura would reply to the media’s appeals to contribute to the debate, she would find herself alienated from her family, used, devoured and discarded by the media, and have ruined any opportunity to influence her brother’s apparent polar views on gay civil rights.

Gay people are the only minority that risk losing their family because of their identity. As difficult as it is to be a racial minority in this country, members of these minorities still go home to others who are like them, who understand who they are, and what they are going through. This is a powerful source of identity, social support, and buffering. Before we judge Laura for not taking this supposed disagreement with her brother to the media, we should keep in mind the high price she would pay, and respect the integrity that she displays by walking her own path in her fight for civil rights.

Walk on, Laura Ricketts. I can only hope that you would never deny your own brother his civil rights. Why don’t you run for office? From what I can tell of your life, our country could use more leaders like you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of making gay people bear the burden of continuously re-introducing the argument, more fair-minded religious (and non-religious) people need to take up the cause of civil rights for all.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

Kylie was not ahead of the media on the issue....OWH had a story about it in the primary.

Let's hope we see "the dirt" on Nelson's family...remember, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander", as Ben the tax cheater said himself.

Stay tuned....

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

There was no prior report in the World-Herald, otherwise this latest article would have been COMPLETELY redundant.

As for Bulldog's threats against Nelson, it's sad that he persists in seeing this as digging up "dirt" about Ricketts' family. This is a relevant issue of great moral and political complexity - forced by those on the right who continue to exploit a class of people for electoral gain.

As for the first Anonymous comment, I appreciate the precarious position in which Laura Ricketts has been placed and have tried to be respectful of her plight. While she might just be supporting her brother by holding her tongue and doing what she can not to be a liability to his campaign, what really bothers me is that her silence might reflect her having given up on her native state and its citizens.

A sad but perhaps understandable choice - I trust, for all of Laura Ricketts good work and leadership in Illinois, she at least appreciates the efforts of those who continue the struggle for equality in Nebraska and maintain what faith they can and must in the fundamental decency of its people.

Blogger Unknown said...

While I am almost certain that there was no previous OWH article (bulldog, the burden of proof is on you, there), I wouldn't put it past the Omaha World-Herald to be completely redundant.

It's not necessarily fair, though, to single out Ricketts, since he is taking the exact same position as Nelson is taking. In fact, that is the major reason why this hasn't become an issue in this campaign.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


No one has singled out Ricketts. When Nelson cast a vote in support of the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, this site was very upfront and open with its shame. The simple fact is that the story of Ricketts and his sister is an important one independent of the race with Nelson. If you choose to see it in purely political terms - with all eyes on November - you're missing the entire point.

Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, certainly not, Kyle. But it's still only fair to point out Nelson is on the same side as Ricketts on this issue. Ricketts' situation only illustrates the point better: that he would propose a law to make his own sister a second-class citizen. It's not just a campaign issue, but where is Ricketts without the election? Everything about Pete Ricketts right now is in the context of this election, and there's plenty that he's wrong about.

But it's no surprise why this has not yet been an issue in this election, either... the two candidates agree. Part of the reason this campaign has been so negative is because there is very little substantive policy difference between the two candidates. The major difference is in how the two candidates view the party label. Nelson prides himself on independence, while Ricketts is campaigning on the "R."

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Just because Nelson and Ricketts are similarly positioned on this issue doesn't BEGIN to suggest there is "very little substantive policy difference" between them.

Did you watch Sunday night's debate? The discussions of the minimum wage, social security, the 2007 Farm Bill, federal spending in general: there was a world of difference between Ricketts and Nelson on these issues - very important issues to the people of this state, all on which Nelson is clearly the better representative of Nebraska's voters and their values.

Please refrain from dumbing down Nebraska politics with such over-generalizations. That's the job of the respective campaigns and the media - both of which do a marvelous job of it without our assistance, in service to a mentality completely antithetical to this site and its supposed purpose.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


You self-righteous puke.

You pass yourself off as some moral police officer and exploit someone's unusual sexual orientation for your own gain of "forcing the GLBT debate" because there is "no other progressive blog" in this state.

Look, if you want New-York-and-Hollywood-type garbage clouding your views, fine, but most folks in this state don't care what the elitists on the coasts think of us.

Obviously you do, so why don't you and Racist Rubin pack up and head there after this election is over.

Oh wait...neither one of you are talented enough to "make it" in a larger market, are you? Racist Rubin lost what should have been a walk-in governor's race and you're too much of a sissy-boy to pack up and head off on your own, not to mention that you lack any marketable skills. This shortcoming on your part disallows you from getting out of your parents' basement.

You're only trying to embarrass someone in public because you're parents didn't teach you to respect others.

Go ahead and blog away, you sorry sap....very few are watching and even fewer care, but I guess in order to get back at all of those "jocks" who treated you like a farm animal in high school, you have to have some sort of outlet. And what better one than something that is free and irrelevant??

Blogger Unknown said...

bulldog, you're the only one among us who believes that it's an "unusual" sexual orientation. Take your bigotry masked as outrage somewhere else.

kyle, I am prone to overgeneralizations and exaggerations sometimes, but I honestly don't believe there is all that much of a difference between Nelson and Ricketts on the major issues. It's why we spent a month and a half talking about property taxes even though the U.S. Senate has absolutely no control over those taxes. The major positive I see with Nelson is that he isn't going to be an unquestioning vote for George W. Bush.

I will concede that Ricketts has a couple of differences that stand out: His support for a national sales tax, and his unflinching support of this administration. Those, I concede, are significant issues. And they are the major reasons why Ben Nelson has my vote.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


You are slow.

Homosexuality is unusual, as are folks with bright red hair and humans over seven feet tall. If you interpret that fact as bigotry or hatred, then you are simply stupid.

I would rather not see any sexual orientation publicized, unusual or otherwise. If you don't understand that libertarian view, then you are completely lost.

If you think Ricketts outright supports a national sales tax, then it is obvious you were commissioned to post to this site by Racist Rubin.

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was wondering if you were a strict constitutionalist in regards to the first amendment?

Because, I have to say the level at which bulldog has dragged this conversation to has reached new lows.

I always find it amusing that when conservatives don't have a well thought out argument that they can debate on they resort to name calling.

Thank you Kyle for taking the high road.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Daily Bulldog = name calling idiot

the rest of you, thanks for the interesting discussion


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