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International Court System receives Matthew Shepard Foundation's 'Essential Piece' Award
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International Court System receives Matthew Shepard Foundation's 'Essential Piece' Award

Community-service volunteer network raised more than $100,000 to erase hate

The Matthew Shepard Foundation has recognized the International Court System with an 'Essential Piece' Award, citing the court's outstanding spirit of generosity and activism during 45 years of community service activity.

The International Court System, a network of social and community-service organizations first established in 1965 in San Francisco, received the award from Foundation staff February 13 at the President's Ball held by the Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle & the Olympic and Rainier Empire.

"The energy you have all devoted, the stories you have shared with us about your lives, and your individual reasons for pursuing service to the community, are quite simply an inspiration to me, my family, and the Foundation's board and staff," said Foundation Board President Judy Shepard. "You set a wonderful example for us all."

Chapters of the Imperial Court System throughout the United States and Canada raised more than $100,000 in 2009 and early 2010 to benefit the Foundation's educational and outreach programs to "Erase Hate," with Canadian funds going to benefit additional LGBT causes in honor of the Foundation. The combined total is the largest donation the Foundation has ever received from a single individual or community organization.

"For over 45 years, the International Court System of the United States, Canada and Mexico has been in the forefront of making major contributions from raising funds to fight Anita Bryant and her referendums to supporting LGBT students in our schools." stated San Diego City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez (Queen Mother of the Americas). "We are the Shriners and the Elks for the LGBT community and with our decades of noble deeds, we can proudly say we have made a difference."

"The Imperial Court System began as a shared structure for 'camp' fun and celebration of individual creativity and uniqueness, but quickly became a mainstay of LGBT community life marked foremost by its devotion to assisting worthy causes," said Foundation Executive Director Jason Marsden. "Quite simply, the Courts are the ultimate proof that people can fill an indispensible role in practically anyplace in the country, no matter whom they love, how they live or what they wear. We are delighted to have earned their support and look forward to working with the Courts on an ongoing basis to reach our shared goals."

The Imperial Court System includes 67 chapters throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, and membership is open to everyone. It was founded by World War II veteran Jose Julio Sarria, who in 1961 became the first openly Gay candidate to run for U.S. public office.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was established by Judy and Dennis Shepard in memory of their 21-year-old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-Gay hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. It was created to honor Matthew's dreams, beliefs and aspirations to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion and Acceptance" through programs including educational programs in high schools and colleges, and advocacy for equality for all Americans.

The Foundation's "Essential Piece" Award is usually given to individuals and companies whose efforts have been an "essential piece" in helping the Foundation achieve its mission. The award to the International Court System is the first such award given to an entire organization for its efforts against hatred and bias. Past recipients include MillerCoors, singer-songwriter Randi Driscoll, and Foundation board member Greg Miraglia, among others.

Photos of Nicole Murray-Ramirez receiving the "Essential Piece" Award are on the Matthew Shepard Foundation website - www.matthewshepard.org.

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