Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party

by Chris Miller

As most of you know, this coming Saturday, March 26, 2011, The State Central Committee of the Nevada State Democratic Party will meet in Reno to elect a new Chair. The two candidates are Chris Wicker and Roberta Lange. The NSDC has reached out to both candidates and asked for letters to share with our members.

After a flip of a coin, here is Roberta Lange's letter.

Members of Stonewall Democrats

I am proud to be a long-time ally of the LGBTQ community. During my tenure as Chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, I've worked closely with Stonewall Democrats and our allies -- nationally, locally, and statewide -- on a wide range of issues of importance to LGBTQ Nevadans.

I celebrated in 2009 when our State Legislature overrode Governor Gibbons' veto to pass the Domestic Partnership Responsibilities Act of 2009 allowing gay and lesbian couples their rights and official recognition of their love and commitment. In a historical blink of an eye, Nevada helped move the national goalpost from what once was considered impossible to what I believe, with our unrelenting efforts, to be inevitable: full marriage equality.

Transgender people experience some of the most extreme and pervasive problems of any group within the LGBT community. While our LGB citizens are already protected statewide from discrimination in employment and public accommodations as well as being included in our state's Hate Crimes law, I believe we must extend these protections to Nevada's transgender citizens as well.

As a former teacher, I strongly believe we must strengthen our ability to fight against the epidemic of LGBT bullying and discrimination in our public schools, both through educating the public and passing anti-bullying legislation.

I will continue to be a strong advocate of educating Nevadans
about all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression in order to build a better life for all of our state's citizens.

Roberta Lange
Candidate for Chair on the Nevada State Democratic Party

And here is the letter we received from Chris Wicker via Angela Brooks:

Dear Angela

Thank you for your request for information about my candidacy for Chair of the State Democratic party, which will be distributed to Stonewall members statewide.

One question you had is how I felt about GLBT issues. I would like to answer that in part by relating some of my history. My practice has been primarily business and commercial litigation since my arrival to Nevada in 1983. I remember in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, that many GLBT people did not feel they could be open about who they were. In the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, there was a gay rodeo in Reno for a few years. For various reasons the sponsors of the gay rodeo tried to move it to private property in Churchill County. There was opposition to the gay rodeo in the local community culminating worth the District Attorney of Churchill County trying to shut it down. I volunteered with ACLU to represent the gay rodeo to try to allow it to take place. The District Attorney obtained Temporary Restraining Order, which would have the effect of closing the gay rodeo for that year. These were highly publicized occurrences and when I undertook to represent the gay rodeo, I had at least one District Judge and one Supreme Court Justice (neither of whom currently hold office) suggest to me that it was not in my professional interest to be associated with the gay rodeo, particularly because I had business clients and worked a prominent law firm. I ignored those suggestions and represented the gay rodeo before the Nevada Supreme Court, which was headline news the next day. I’ll never forget when I was arguing that the gay rodeo was protected under First Amendment as an expression of gay pride one of the Justices interrupted me and said, “What is this gay pride you are talking about? I have never heard of it” A majority on the Supreme Court refused to overturn the Temporary restraining Order and the gay rodeo in Nevada was effectively destroyed.

Sometime later I was representing a major oil company in litigation that had the attention of the Executive Vice President. One of the employees I worked extensively with disclosed to me, after he found out about my work with the gay rodeo, that he was gay. Subsequent to that, the in-house attorney and I supported him when he came out that he was gay to sis supervisors in the company. He later became the head of diversity for the United States subsidiary of the oil company. Subsequently moved to Pennsylvania to become head of diversity for a major food corporation. Subsequent to his coming out to the oil company, the in-house company attorney retired and at the conclusion of litigation, I was never retained again by that company.

I relate these stories to demonstrate that I have supported GLBT issues through action for over two (2) decades. In Washoe County I am proud to say that we have had many officers who were members of the GLBT Community. Perhaps more importantly, I believe that it simply is never an issue within the Democratic Party whether somebody is a member of the GLBT Community, everybody is simply activist Democrats. We still have work to do in the larger community.

I campaigned for and gave money to members of the GLBT Community that ran for public office. Over the years, I actively opposed the anti-gay marriage initiatives in Nevada.

No matter who is elected as State Chair, I am fully confident that the GLBT Community will continue to be fully integrated in the party, and the GLBT Community issues will be taken on as other issues important to the Democrats are.

In my opinion, the more important issue facing the GLBT and Democrats in general is the rise of the extreme right wing and the fact that Republican politicians seem to be afraid to even sneeze without obtaining the permission of their extreme right wing. This extremist element is hostile to many things important to Democrats and is clearly hostile to the GLBT Community. It is therefore critical that a strong chair is elected who understands this danger and is capable of fighting those dangerous extremist elements.

If I am elected Chair, I look forward to working with Stonewall Democrats as I will with all of our diverse organizations.
Thank you


W. Chris Wicker

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