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Imperial Court de San Diego to celebrate 40 years this weekend

SAN DIEGO -- Known as San Diego's oldest LGBT organization, the Imperial Court de San Diego will celebrate its 40th anniversary this weekend with two major events.

The court will host the Imperial State Dinner tonight at 6 pm, which will be presided over by Nicole Murray-Ramirez, who holds the title of Queen Mother I of the Americas in the organization. On Saturday at 7 pm, the 40th anniversary Coronation Ball will be held.

Both of the events will include dinner, pageantry, entertainment, and "much pomp and circumstance."

The Coronation Ball also includes the stepping-down of the reigning emperor and empress, and the election of their successors. Reigning Emperor Allan Spyere will not join Empress Erika Odessa at the event, as he is being held by authorities on immigration charges, facing deportation.

First organized in 1971, with its first election and coronation in 1972, the Imperial Court de San Diego hosts fundraisers for LGBT organizations in San Diego County. Among the programs sponsored by the organization include the Harvey Milk/NMR Student Scholarship Program, the Tijuana AIDS Fund, the Queen Eddie Youth Fund, the Community Children's Easter Egg Hunt, Scott Carlson Thanksgiving Dinner, the Benjamin F. Dillingham III Community Grant, Toni Atkins Lesbian Health Fund, Toys for Kids and the Winter Blanket Drive.

The International Court System was founded in 1965 by WWII veteran and Latino entertainer Jose Julio Sarria, who was crowned Empress I of San Francisco. Sarria was also the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in North America (in 1961).

"[Coronation] is much more than just a gala drag ball," said Michael Zarbo, who is known within the court as Empress Lala. "It's more like an evening at Buckingham Palace."

Both events will be held at the Marriott Mission Valley, 8757 Rio San Diego Drive. For more information or tickets, click HERE