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SF Renames Street After Early Gay Activist

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SF Renames Street After Early Gay Activist

by Mary Ellen Peterson, 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

May 25, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) A portion of a street in the Castro District was renamed Thursday after Jose Sarria the first openly gay person to run for public office in the city.

Sarria made history with his bid to become a supervisor in 1961. The popular drag artist lost, but came in at a respectable ninth among 33 candidates, garnering 5,600 votes.

It would be 15 years before the city had its first openly gay supervisor - Harvey Milk who was assassinated in 1978. Today no one bats an eye when a gay candidate runs for office.

Sarria was a fixture in the Castro long before there was an "official sense" of gay community - standing up and speaking out against aggressive police persecution of gays.

Sarria is now 82 and every bit as commanding a figure as he was more than 40 years ago.

The motion to rename the section of 16th Street "Jose Sarria Court" was sponsored by gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

"He was a great wit and character and a great trailblazer for politicians like Harvey Milk and Tom Ammiano," said Dufty.

Supervisor Ammiano called Sarria "the Queen Mother of the LBGT movement."

Never at a loss for words Sarria when he heard the street was to be renamed after him said: "They think I'm dead. That's why they're doing this."

Although there is no street in the city named for Milk, Jose Sarria Court will include the section of 16th Street that houses the Harvey Milk Public Library.

More than 200 people were on hand on Thursday for the dedication, including representatives of the Imperial Courts across the country. Sarria was active in the organization of drag performers who are involved in philanthropic works.

As well as rededicating the street in Sarria's name, a plaque was set in the sidewalk explaining his significance to the LGBT community and the city.

©365Gay.com 2006

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