One of America’s gay rights pioneering leaders, Jose Julio Sarria, passed away today. Sarria was 90, a World War II veteran and the very first openly gay candidate to run for public office in the US as a candidate for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, a close friend of Sarria’s and a Harvey Milk Foundation board member stated, “Jose Julio Sarria was a ‘Rosa Parks’ figure of the gay rights movement as an activist in the 1960s.”
In 1965 Jose established the first Court Chapter of the International Court System.
Stuart Milk of the Harvey Milk Foundation stated that the passing of Sarria marks a significant moment in LGBT history:
“Jose Sarria, founder of the International Court System showed us how to turn a night into a grand occasion and a grand occasion into a means of providing support to a widely diminished people. That support led so many who did not “fit in” to actually proudly stand out, together, creating a local sense of community and an international network that would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local and major charities. He paved the way for my uncle Harvey Milk to run for public office by being the first openly gay man to put his name on a ballot (in 1961) and was right there to support Harvey’s first campaign in 1973. José’s extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. And the extraordinary good that he did lives on. For the International Court System he was a guardian and an inspiration. For anyone who felt like they were different he was a defender of our dreams. He taught us how to turn an idea into action, how to wear a tiara and how to laugh and ultimately he taught us how to lift up and nourish a marginalized community. We will forever keep Jose in our history books and in our hearts.”