The international Court System was founded in 1965 by War World II veteran and gay icon, Jose Julio Sarria who in 1961 became the first openly gay candidate for public office in North America. The first Imperial Court Chapter was established in San Francisco and now there are chapters in over 68 cities within the United States, Canada and Mexico. Sarria was the titular leader of the world’s largest LGBT organizations until 2007 when he named and crowned Nicole Murray Ramirez (Empress Nicole The Great de San Diego) as his successor within the title and position as “Queen Mother I of the Americas”. “The best way to describe the Court System is to say it’s the gay Shriners or elks of the Americas”, states Murray Ramirez .
The first Imperial Coronation Ball held at what is now the Holiday Inn at the Embarcadero drew over 1,000 people and made it the first “homosexual event” ever held in a public hotel in San Diego. Elected the first monarchs of San Diego were Emperor I Omar (who currently is the owner of No. 1 5th Ave.) and legendary entertainer Empress Tony Tann who died of AIDS in the 1980’s.
Nicole Murray Ramirez actually was one of the eight candidates who ran for “Empress II” and placed forth and was elected Baroness de San Diego but went on to be elected Empress! The Court of San Diego has established itself as one of the most successful fundraising organizations in the country raising countless hundreds of thousands of dollars over these past three decades. The Imperial Court played a major part in helping establish the LGBT Center, San Diego Pride, Stepping Stone, AIDS Walk, Mama’s Kitchen, and many other organizations with their badly needed fundraisers that in the 1970’s occurred almost weekly. The court of San Diego has the distinction of establishing one of the first LGBT Student Scholarships in the nation in 1979 now called the Harvey Milk/Nicole Murray Ramirez Student Scholarship Fund.