Praising the Imperial Court of San Francisco’s philanthropic work, a committee of the Board of Supervisors Thursday (November 13) unanimously approved moving forward a resolution that would allow the nonprofit group to use the official city seal on some of its materials when it celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.
Donna Sachet, far right with Emperor John Paul Soto, joined Supervisor Scott Wiener, fourth from right, John Weber, fifth from right, and other Imperial Court members at Thursday’s hearing on the group’s use of the city seal for its 50th anniversary gala. (Photo: Cynthia Laird)
Sponsored by gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener – and co-sponsored by board President David Chiu and Supervisor London Breed – the resolution will allow the Imperial Council, the court’s governing body, to use the city seal on appropriate materials related to its golden anniversary gala, set to be held February 15 at City Hall
Members of the Imperial Court board and current and former emperors and empresses were on hand to urge the board’s government audit and oversight committee to approve the resolution.
“We’ve raised lots of money for charitable organizations like housing and HIV/AIDS,” Jon Weber, Emperor 36 and chair of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, told the supervisors.
John Paul Soto, the reigning emperor of San Francisco, said that the Imperial Court’s philanthropic work what he is most proud of. To date, Soto and his empress, Misty Blue, have raised about $40,000 since they were crowned in February.
During his remarks, Wiener explained that the Imperial Court has been a big part of the city’s LGBT community and is one of the oldest LGBT organizations in the country.
Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court and was the first empress, ran for supervisor as a gay man in 1962 and while he didn’t win, he did pull in a lot of votes, Wiener said.
“San Francisco has retained the role of Mother Court and we should all be very proud,” he added.
Board clerk Angela Calvillo offered some amendments to Wiener’s resolution, explaining that use of the city’s seal by outside groups is not something that is common.
“Since 1979 the board has granted and approved use of the seal 22 times,” she said.
The seal dates back to the city’s earliest days. “The seal was created in 1858 and re-established in 1900,” Calvillo said. “It needs to be placed in a dignified manner.”
Someone who maliciously uses the seal can be charged with a misdemeanor, she said, adding that has happened in 12 instances over the years.
The seal cannot be used on caps or items of clothing such as T-shirts that are for sale, Calvillo said.
Donna Sachet, the Bay Area Reporter’s society columnist and chair of the Imperial Court’s 50th anniversary gala, talked about the importance of the organization.
“Fifty years ago we did not enjoy a central community,” Sachet said, adding that while there were gay people living in the city, it was not the community that it is today.
“Along came a Navy veteran and drag queen, Jose Sarria, who founded the Imperial Court,” Sachet said.
She also talked about the upcoming gala, which is expected to fill City Hall with 700 people.
“It will be crowns, gowns, and pageantry,” she said.
After the hearing, Sachet said that the group wants to use the city seal on its brochure for the gala and for a 126-page bound commemorative book that will be distributed to guests.
The resolution now goes to the full board, which is expected to vote on the item at its November 25 meeting.