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    Pioneering LGBTQ Activist José Julio Sarria Inducted Into the California Hall of Fame

    One of the LGBTQ’s most legendary iconic trailblazers and heroes, the first Empress of the Americas, José Julio Sarria, was inducted into the prestigious California Hall of Fame during a live-streamed virtual ceremony held on August 22, 2023. The six other new inductees are Carrie Fisher, Maggie Gee, Etta James, Vin Scully, Shirley Temple Black, and Archie Williams.

    Sarria, a proud Latino and World War II veteran, in 1961 became the first openly cay candidate to run for public office as a candidate for the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, placing fifth among a field of 29 candidates. Sarria’s courageous run for public office put “Gay Power” on the political map and paved the way for over 600 elected LGBTQ officials now in public office.

    In 1965, Sarria was crowned “Absolute Empress 1 of San Francisco” and established the first Royal Court in North America. Now there are over 65 city court chapters in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

    Seventeen years ago, Sarria crowned her heir and successor, long-time Latino/LGBTQ activist, San Diego County/City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, who 11 years ago officially nominated Sarria to be inducted in the California Hall of Fame on behalf of the International Imperial Court System.

    “José Julio Sarria was the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ Civil Rights Movement,” said Commissioner Ramirez, who is Empress Nicole the Great known as “Queen Mother 1 of the Americas.”

    “It is very symbolic of Governor Newsom to name José into the California Hall of Fame during this time when drag queens/transgender people are under attack by the Radical Right Wing,” added Commissioner Ramirez.

    Indeed, Empress 1 José was a proud drag queen and, following his distinguished service in the U.S. Army and honorable discharge in 1947, he returned to his beloved San Francisco. He soon became the hostess of the infamous Black Cat bar where he became known as the “Nightengale of Montgomery Street” and would end his campy live opera performances with “God Save Us Nelly Queens.”

    Commissioner Ramirez and then San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty led the campaign that resulted in Sarria being the first openly gay man to have a street named after him by the City of San Francisco. He was also inducted into the National LGBTQ Wall of Fame located in the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City, as well as being honored as an historic figure on the Rainbow Honor Walk in the Castro.

    “Though we of the international Imperial Courts led this effort, it definitely took a village to accomplish this honor and I want to especially thank California State Senate President Toni Atkins, State Senator Scott Wiener, former San Francisco Supervisors Mark Leno and Bevan Dufty, and former State Assembly Whip and now Mayor Todd Gloria of San Diego. Also, the National LGBTQ Task Force and the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund who were major co-sponsors of our campaign,” said Commissioner Ramirez.

    The International Imperial Courts have had major success in their national letter-writing campaigns and lobbying that have resulted in a Harvey Milk U.S. postage stamp and the USNS Harvey Milk.

    “And I want to also thank Amanda Meeker, the Executive Director of the California Museum, for working closely with the International Court Council and the Imperial Court of San Francisco on this historic honor for our beloved José,” added Commissioner Ramirez.

    Published on August 24, 2023