SF supes back naming drag icon to CA Hall of Fame

Assistant Editor

Jose Julio Sarria addressed the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club in May 2012 after accepting an award from the political group. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
Jose Julio Sarria addressed the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club in May 2012 after accepting an award from the political group. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)   

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors this week signed on to the effort to posthumously induct gay icon and drag queen Jose Julio Sarria into the California Hall of Fame.

At its meeting Tuesday, May 21, the board without comment unanimously approved a resolution introduced by gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman urging Governor Gavin Newsom to include Sarria, a San Francisco native, among his first class of honorees for the hall. The former mayor of San Francisco is expected to announce his nominees later this year.

Sarria, who died in 2013 at the age of 90, made history in 1961 with his unsuccessful bid for a San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat. It marked the first time an out gay person had sought elected office in the U.S.

As the Political Notebook reported May 9, LGBT community leaders across the Golden State launched an effort to see Sarria be named to the hall in 2015 due to it being the 50th anniversary of the Imperial Court System. Sarria established the court in San Francisco, and it became a major LGBT philanthropic group throughout North America.

Despite the campaign on behalf of Sarria, who was also a veteran and a prominent Latino leader, receiving broad support, former governor Jerry Brown failed to induct him into the state hall. It was speculated that his advisers were uncomfortable with Sarria's being a drag queen as behind the snub.

With Newsom's election last November, friends of Sarria have renewed their efforts to see him be honored in such a way. A trio of members of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus — chair gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), vice chair gay Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), and lesbian state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) — are co-chairing the campaign and recently had a positive discussion with Newsom about why Sarria deserves such recognition.

As Mandelman told the B.A.R. earlier this month, Sarria's importance as a "person in queer and San Francisco history" merits his placement in the hall.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Vallie Brown, Catherine Stefani, Sandra Lee Fewer, Norman Yee and Gordon Mar all signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution, which hailed Sarria for being "a vocal critic of the criminalization of queer people and queer meeting places, and would promote a groundbreaking sense of gay pride and positive gay identity in performances at gay establishments such as the Black Cat Cafe in North Beach."

The board's vote comes several weeks after the City College Board of Trustees passed a resolution in support of Sarria's induction into the hall. Gay board president Alex Randolph and vice president Tom Temprano, who has a tattoo of Sarria on his left arm, initiated it. The B.A.R. also editorialized in support of seeing Newsom induct Sarria, as it did four years ago when Brown was in office.

The public can also nominate Sarria, or anyone else that meets the criteria for inclusion in the California Hall of Fame, via an online form found at http://www.californiamuseum.org/nomination-form.

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