The Imperial Courts of the Pacific Northwest:
Oregon, Washington and British Columbia

Compiled by George T. Nicola, Harold Strong, and Daniel Barrows
The Gay & Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN)
Last updated June 30, 2014

The Imperial Courts of the Pacific Northwest spread across all of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. For many decades, they have been an important and vital part of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community efforts to gain recognition for equality and promotion of the positive image of all LGBT citizens. Diversity is a cornerstone principle of the Imperial Courts philosophy, encouraging and allowing allies from the straight communities of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia to play a uniting and active participating role as well. 

Each Court is an autonomous organization (sovereign empire) helping compose the present day 70 chapters of the International Court System that stretches across the three nations of Canada, the United States and Mexico.  The International Court System (also known as the Imperial Court System) is a “a grassroots network of organizations that works to build community relationships for equality and raise monies for charitable causes through the production of annual Gala Coronation Balls that invite an unlimited audience of attendees to be presented at Royal Court in their fanciest [royal] attire throughout North America along with numerous other fundraisers each year, all for the benefit of their communities.” (

The First Imperial Court was founded in 1965 in San Francisco by Jose Sarria. In the United States, the first court outside of San Francisco was Portland, Oregon which joined in partnership in October of 1971 with San Francisco to start the Imperial Court System. Shortly thereafter in November of 1971, Seattle, Washington joined with Portland and San Francisco. In March of 1972, through an imperial accord with the Empress of Canada Ted Northe, who founded the Canadian Imperial Courts, Vancouver, British Columbia joined and the International Court System was created. The International Court System today is the second largest LGBT organization in the world, surpassed only the Metropolitan Community Church.

The Imperial Courts of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia each have a Board of Directors that help manage the financial responsibility and preserve the integrity of their Federal 501(c)3 Non-Profit tax-exempt status (Society Association Status in Canada) while the elected chief public ambassadors of each court, the Emperor and Empress, work to raise large amounts of money for a diverse variety of charities, many of which primarily serve members of the LGBT community.

Unlike many other large fund-raising organizations, the Imperial Courts of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and all throughout the Imperial Court System are composed entirely of volunteers. There are no paid positions as set down by regulations of each Court’s Board of Directors prohibiting any member from profiting from the Imperial Court Systems activities. Instead these Courts depend on an individual level of commitment and involvement with many spending thousands of dollars of their own money each year for costumes, travel to and from events, and charitable donations.
The Imperial Courts are a largely appealing social outlet for those interested in various forms of costuming that are willing to lend their enthusiasm to the courts culture of charitable fund-raising. In addition to their many costume themed drag-attire events, the Imperial Courts of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, have closely partnered with subcultures such as leather enthusiasts, choreograph dance entertainers, and rodeo country western enthusiasts to help produce entertainment events, sponsor contests, organize civic outreach campaigns, and bestow various titles to members based on European nobility, all themed with royalty and camp drag. 

Each Imperial Court of the Pacific Northwest has stories that are extensively documented, so we will simply reference what is available online:

1. Portland, Oregon: The Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon (ISRC)

2. Salem, Oregon: The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Willamette Empire (ISCWE)

3. Eugene, Oregon: The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Emerald Empire (ISCEE)

4. Seattle, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle, the Olympic and Rainier Empire (ISCSORE)

5. Spokane, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of Spokane and All Eastern Washington (ISCS)

6. Vancouver, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Raintree Empire (ISCRE)

7. Tacoma, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of Tacoma, Diamond Empire of the Cascades (ISCTDEC)

8. Bellingham, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Evergreen Empires (ISCEE)

9. Everett, Washington: The Imperial Sovereign Court of Snohomish County, Empire of Dreams (ISCSCED)

10. Vancouver, British Columbia: The Dogwood Monarchist Society (DMS)

11. Surrey, British Columbia: The Imperial Sovereign Court of Surrey, Empire of the Peace Arch (ISCSEPA)

12. The International Court System (ICS): All Courts listed above are member of this organization.