US: ‘Sensational and inspirational’ funeral held for gay rights pioneer José Julio Sarria

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The funeral for Jusé Julio Sarria, who, before Harvey Milk, was the first openly gay person to run for the US public office in 1961, took place in San Francisco on Friday.

Mourners were left with a detailed set of instructions for the late drag queen’s funeral service, which took place at 11am in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.

Men were expected to wear black suits, white crowns, and white gloves. Women had to wear black full-length mourning attire, crowns, and shoulder-length veils.

Following the funeral, over 10 limousines and six buses brought mourners to Colma’s Woodlawn Cemetery for “a sensational and inspirational graveside ceremony”, which featured a concert and a performance from drag queen Donna Sachet.

The cortege was escorted by two dozen San Francisco police motorcycle officers.

Mr Sarria was buried in a grave next to the last resting place of Joshua Norton, better known at Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Mr Sarria called himself ‘Empress Jose I, The Widow Norton,’ in honor of Mr Norton.

State senator Mark Leno compared Mr Sarria to civil rights activist Rosa Parks. He said: “He stood for justice. He said, ‘There is nothing wrong with being gay, the crime is being caught’.”

After the burial, a reception was held in Mr Sarria’s memory at Lookout Bar in San Francisco.

Mr Sarria, who served in World War II, was a well known campaigner for gay rights.

In 1965, he founded the Imperial Court, a gay rights charity. It is one of the oldest LGBT organisations, and since has raised millions through costume balls.

Mr Sarria passed away at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 19 August, aged 90.