In 1961, World War II Veteran Jose Julio Sarria became the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in North America. Though he did not win that election, four years later he did win, and was crowned with the title of Empress I of San Francisco. Now, 50 years later the International Imperial Court System has grown into court chapters in over 68 cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and is one of the oldest LGBTQ organizations in the world. On October 23, 2015 in Portland, Oregon, LGBTQ royalty from all over North America and Mexico will be gathering to celebrate the Golden Jubilee Gala State Dinner at the historic Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland. Among the VIPs in attendance will be:
- Dustin Lance Black (Academy Award winner for best Original Screenplay, Milk)
- Rev. Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Churches)
- Judy and Dennis Shepard (founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation)
- Cleve Jones (founder of The NAMES Project/AIDS Quilt)
- Hon. Toni Atkins (Speaker, California State Assembly)
- Hon . Michael Connolly (member, Provincial Assembly of Alberta, Canada)
- Jim Obergefell (lead plaintiff , U.S. Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case)
- Russell Roybal (Deputy Director, National LGBTQ Task Force)
- Hon. Todd Gloria (former Mayor, San Diego, CA)
Presiding over this historic 50th Anniversary Celebration will be Jose Julio Sarria heir and successor, Queen Mother I of the Americas, Her Most Imperial Majesty Empress Nicole the Great. Nicole Murray Ramirez has been a Latino/Gay rights activist himself for over 45 years and is a City Commissioner who has served and advised the last seven mayors of San Diego, CA.
The Imperial Courts have been often called “the gay Shriners or Elks” of the Americas and have been raising millions of dollars for countless causes and organizations within and outside of the LGBTQ community for five decades. In the 1960s and 1970s Imperial Court chapters throughout America were sometimes the only LGBTQ organization in existence and helped to build LGBTQ Community Centers, Pride Parades, and organizations in their individual cities. One of the first LGBTQ Student Scholarships started in the International Imperial Court System in 1979, and now over 40 Court Chapters have an ongoing Student Scholarship Program. At the Gala in Portland , Oregon, Queen Mother I of the Americas, Nicole the Great will officially announce the establishment of the International Jose Julio Sarria LGBTQ Scholarship Program with an over $85,000 endowment. Jose Julio Sarria passed away in August 20 13 at the age of 91. Queen Mother I of the Americas, Nicole the Great, along with her International Imperial Court Council, with the help of then Supervisor Bevan Dufty, successfully lobbied the city of San Francisco to name a street in honor of Jose Julio Sarria.
The Imperial Courts have raised funds to fight Anita Bryant and other’s homophobic campaigns, National LGBTQ March on Washington, and countless LGBTQ Civil Rights causes and social service organizations, as well as acting as leaders in HIVIAIDS fundraising and support since the 1980s. One of the most notabl e recent success stories of the International Imperial Court System was the seven year letter writing campaign organized and led by Nicole Murray Ramirez and her nobles to get the U.S. Postal Department to issue a postage stamp in honor of Harvey Milk.
Queen Mother I of the Americas, Nicole the Great and other gay royalty were at the White House Ceremony officially unveiling the Harvey Milk Stamp. The Imperial Courts are now leading campaigns for a Bayard Rustin Stamp with support from the National LGBTQ Task Force, and for a Navy Vessel to be named after Harvey Milk.
“A community, indeed a civil rights movement that doesn’t know where it came from really doesn’t know where it is going,” stated Nicole, reflecting on the historic importance of the Golden Jubilee Celebration. In fact, the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City is the official “Palace” of Queen Mother I of the Americas, Nicole the Great and the International Imperial Court System, honoring them with a picture of the monarch and royal seal prominentl y displayed inside.
It is important to note that the membership of the International Imperial Court System is not made up of only drag queens, but also women, bisexuals , heterosexuals, gay men, transgendered individuals. The membership is open to all.
“Indeed, from a seed planted in San Francisco in 1965 has grown a vibrant and royal oak tree with branches across Canada, the United States of America, and Mexico,” stated Queen Mother I of the Americas, Nicole the Great. “We are celebrating over 50 years of noble deeds that have helped to benefit so many, and helped build our modem day LGBTQ community and equality movement.”
For further information on the October 23, 2015 Golden Jubilee Celebration or the International Imperial Court System please visit www.impcourt.org.