Voice for Equality: Laura Ricketts
October 21, 2010
Laura Ricketts is co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and CEO of Ecotravel.com. Ricketts is also a board member of Lambda Legal and the Housing Opportunities for Women organization. Ricketts' ownership stake in the Cubs is uniquely noteworthy because it makes her the first openly gay owner of a major-league sports franchise.
Ricketts and her three siblings grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Her father, J. Joseph Ricketts, founded Ameritrade when Laura was 7. Ricketts senior let it be known that he wanted his children to establish themselves through their own hard work and would not be allowed to join TD Ameritrade until they reached the age of 30.
Ricketts is a former corporate lawyer. She lives with her partner on the North Side of Chicago. Ricketts received her Bachelors Degree from the University of Chicago in 1994, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1998. Laura talks of her own struggle to come out; "I came out to my family I would say early to mid 30's. I think for a long time I wasn't really out to myself growing up in Omaha, Neb., to a Catholic conservative family. It took me a while to come out to myself and not long after that I came out to them. I think that it really couldn't have been a better experience. They were all immediately supportive. ... I have been really really fortunate in that regard."
On July 6, 2009, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Ricketts family had reached an agreement with the Tribune Company to purchase the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and 25% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Ricketts works with her three siblings, Pete, Todd, Tom on the Board of the Chicago Cubs. Her brother Thomas is the Chairman and led the acquisition. Learn more here.
As reported in the Chicago Tribune in October of 2010, "From helping run the new family business — the Cubs — to helping achieve the freedom to marry in Iowa, she's here to play ball across many fields."
"...perhaps most important, she is wholly comfortable with who she is — a mother and the only openly lesbian owner of a major U.S. men's professional sports team.
"'She knows her mind,' said her brother and fellow Cubs owner Todd Ricketts. 'She's confident in herself. You feel that when you talk to her, and you feel it in the way she lives her life.'
"Much of the past decade of that life has been focused on advancing the rights of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In the style of the conservative Nebraskan family she comes from, Laura's activism has been subtle and substantive.
"She believes passionately that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but rather than shout her feelings, or even use her own committed relationship as a talking point, she has worked steadily behind the scenes with Lambda Legal, which filed the lawsuit that led to the legalization of marriage equality in Iowa last year. She also has been involved with Equality Illinois, a political advocacy group working on, among other things, the legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples in the state.
"'She's a lawyer by trade, so she's very strategic,' said Paula Taylor, who met Laura years ago playing in an LGBT softball league in Chicago.
... "In 2004, when President Bush gave his State of the Union speech and talked about a Constitutional amendment banning the freedom to marry, Laura began to pay more attention to the political environment.
"'That's when I realized this is really a threat to me,' she said.
"'People were talking about trying to change the Constitution to discriminate against me. I just felt like I had to get more involved.'
... "As a Lambda Legal board member, Laura was active behind the scenes while the organization pursued its lawsuit in Iowa claiming same-sex couples had a right under the state constitution to marry. She and her partner were in the courtroom in Des Moines for the oral arguments.
"At one point during the process, Laura's father, Joe Ricketts, asked her why she and Lambda Legal were focusing so hard on the right to marry, saying he didn't think that was a battle they could win. Laura was with her family in New York when the Iowa Supreme Court ruling came down. She received a text about it on her cell phone, looked up and said: 'Guess what? We just won marriage in Iowa, Dad.'
"He smiled and congratulated her, toasting the ruling as the family had breakfast.
"At first, Laura assumed she and her partner would race off to Iowa to marry.
"'We absolutely thought we'd head to Council Bluffs in Iowa, get married and then have the reception across the river in my parents' backyard in Omaha,' she said. 'But we realized it would feel a little hollow living in Chicago and not having your home state recognize your marriage.'
... "Laura's hope is that by living her life, by succeeding in the high-profile position she now has, by returning the Cubs to respectability and raising her child with the same set of ideals she inherited, her sexuality will become a matter of no relevance.
"'It's all about showing people that we're just like everyone else,' Laura said, as the sounds of the game she loves wafted into the Wrigley Field owner's box with a late summer breeze. 'And the more we're out, the more people can see. It's just not really a big deal.' " [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes Laura Ricketts as a Voice for Equality!