Murray-Ramirez appointed as city commissioner
Published Thursday, 07-Aug-2003 in issue 815
New Human Relations commissioner hopes to build bridges
Mayor Dick Murphy has appointed longtime San Diego GLBT activist and Imperial Court member Nicole Murray-Ramirez to San Diego’s Human Relations Commission. Murray-Ramirez has already served as a co-chair of CAPE (currently Equality California), chair of the first-ever San Diego gay and lesbian advisory board to the mayor (under former mayor Maureen O’Connor) and vice-chair of Susan Golding’s gay, lesbian and bisexual advisory board. In addition, he currently serves on the advisory board to the chief of police.
“I’m very honored and excited,” said Murray-Ramirez. “I’m a strong believer in coalition-building, and I believe this gives me a golden opportunity, because on this commission there are leaders from the Jewish community, the African-American community, the Muslim community, the Asian community, the Latino community … and this gives me the opportunity to work with those leaders. I tend to be a strong voice for our community on coalition building and will do my best to educate [others] and get some things going within our community. It’s an opportunity that I take seriously. I plan to give it 100 percent. I think that our community’s future depends on such coalitions. This commission, to me, is a great opportunity to build bridges to other communities.”
“I think he’ll fill [the position] brilliantly,” community activist and philanthropist Ben Dillingham told the Gay and Lesbian Times. “I think it’s a long-overdue recognition and affirmation of his role as a great civil rights leader for the GLBT community. The only thing that surprises me is that the city has taken that long to recognize him.
“I think [the most difficult aspect will be] a challenge that faces all the commissioners that deal with issues relating to our community,” said Dillingham, “and that’s to get other communities to recognize us for the individuals that we are and for the participants in society that we are and to break through the stereotypes. I think that Nicole’s a very forceful leader and he’s been around a long time. He knows all the tricks of the trade and I think he can put forward our points of view forcefully and articulately.”
The role of the Human Relations Commission is to advise the mayor, city council and city manager on ways to ensure equal access to economic, political and educational opportunities, protections and accommodation in all businesses and public agencies. As a commissioner, Murray-Ramirez will join the 14 others on the commission to collaborate with community groups to create educational programs to improve intercultural and inter-community understanding, as well as investigating and mediating discrimination complaints concerning employment, housing and public accommodations.
“Nicole Murray-Ramirez has a long and established history as a champion of equal rights for the LGBT, HIV/AIDS and Latino communities, which makes him a natural for the city’s Human Relations Commission,” said City Councilmember Toni Atkins, who recommended the appointment. “As a grass-roots activist, Nicole has ascended to the highest levels, co-chairing the LGBT March on Washington three times, and serving as chair of the National Gay and Lesbian Latino Association and Equality California —formerly known as CAPE. His credentials are quite impressive when it comes to fighting against discrimination and for civil rights for all people. I was happy to support the mayor’s appointment of Nicole. He will bring a fresh and diverse perspective to the HRC, which should benefit the commission and those who come before it.”
As a testament to Murray-Ramirez’s political clout, one item he has been working on for the past several years came to fruition last month, when Ted Weathers became the first openly gay or lesbian San Diegan to be appointed to the bench by a sitting governor. “Since the beginning, when Jerry Brown appointed the first openly gay judges, it was always disappointing that these appointments ran the gamut of the state, except San Diego,” said Murray-Ramirez.
“When I had the opportunity to have dinner with (Gov. Davis) and spend two and a half hours with him, we spoke on many issues…. He seemed quite surprised when asked if he realized that no governor of California had ever appointed an (openly gay judge from San Diego).”
Murray-Ramirez will be taking the place of attorney and activist M.E. Stephens, who is stepping down after several years as a commissioner. When asked about her experience with the Human Relations Commission, Stephens responded, “There were and are incredibly fabulous minds and citizens on that commission.… These are just incredibly bright people of goodwill who want the best for San Diego. When you’re working with folks of that caliber and that commitment, it’s a pleasure and an honor.”
Murray-Ramirez noted the support he received from outside the GLBT community as a sign of effective bridge building.
“A lot of straight, Latino leaders, from Rachel Ortiz to David Bejarano, sent letters to the mayor urging this appointment, and a lot of the councilmembers, too,” he said. “I was very touched and moved that the Latino leadership would take the time to write letters.… It’s important to note that, as a city commissioner on that commission, I have a vested interest in two communities and I plan to build new bridges and do what I can for the Latino community as well as the GLBT community.”