In 1965, Jose Sarria proclaimed herself the Empress of San Francisco, and laid the foundation for the formation of the Imperial Court de San Francisco. Today, the International Court System (ICS) has over 65 chapters in the United States, Canada and Mexico, making us the second largest GLBT organization in the world. On October 23rd, 2015 The International Imperial Court System will celebrate its 50 Anniversary with a gala state dinner, The Golden Jubilee in Portland, OR.
In the mid 1990’s, Empress Jose named Empress Nicole the Great to be her Heir Apparent, and formed the International Court Council (ICC). After many previous attempts to establish a cohesive international organization, the ICC finally took hold and is the now on its second decade of service to its member chapters. The Member Courts are autonomous organizations bound together in shared structure, policies and goals. The Court have played a significant role in many local GLBT communities, spearheading AIDS fundraising and services, human rights advocacy, and for many the link to the GLBT community. The mission of the ICC is to preserve the legacy of the International Court System, promote cooperation and communication among member courts, create awareness and visibility, and stake our place in GLBT history.
In February 2007, Empress Nicole the Great was elevated as titular head of the ICS and named Queen Mother of the Americas. She ushered in the Renaissance Era and expanded the Council to create a more diverse organization, and formed Parliament to provide representation for each Member Courts. We have organized the International Court conference in 2004, and plans are underway for the first Transgender Conference in June; and the 2nd Women’s Court Conference in October, 2010. The ICC has also signed partnership accords with Egale Canada, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the International Gay Rodeo Association and the National LGBT Museum (Velvet Foundation).
The International Court Council provides many services including a comprehensive website, a quarterly online newsletter “Communique”, and presents the prestigious “Jose Honors” to recognize court members for outstanding service. The ICC took leadership role on international GLBT issues such as “Get Out The Vote” voter registration campaign in 2008; took a strong stand on the repeal of the ban on entry to the U.S. of persons living with HIV/AIDS; endorse making Harvey Milk’s birthday a state holiday in California; supported the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA). In 2006, The ICC played a role in the successful campaign when the city of San Francisco named a portion of 16th Street in the Castro as “Jose Sarria Court”, with a permanent plaque funded by the ICC. In 2009, the ICC presented “Stonewall 40 - Trans Heroes 40,” in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, honoring forty transgender individuals and presented a commemorative plaque to the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City. We were one of the first organizations to endorse the 2009 March on Washington, and thanks to the Imperial Court of New York, hosted a major event in Washington DC. In 2014, we alongside our partner organization the Task Force, celebrated the success of our campaign to have a US Postage stamp created honory Harvey Milk, as we participated in the stamps unveiling at the Whitehouse. Currently we are taking a leadership role in the Bayard Rustin National Stamp Campaign, to a have a US commemorative stamp to honor an often forgotten American champion of human rights.
The International Court Council is also proud of its many international fundraising campaigns. In 1994, many Member Courts collectively raised over $14,000.00 for the Tijuana AIDS Project, a tradition that continues annually. We have also raised tens of thousands of dollars for Women’s Breast Cancer Campaign; became a major sponsor of NGLTF’s Creating Change conference raising over $15,000.00 in the past two years. But perhaps our single crowning achievement must be the coming together of courts in the United States and Canada in 2009 to raise over $100,000.00 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation and like organization in Canada.
After fifty years of noble deeds, the International Imperial Court System has reasons to feel proud. Today we remain a strong, viable and important member of the GLBT communities. For beyond the glitters of our crown and grand titles, we have made a difference in many people’s lives and earned a place in GLBT history.