Michael Williams, who goes by the name “Sister Roma” and is a member of the San Francisco chapter of an anti-Catholic drag group known as the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” was honored by the California state Legislature on Monday.
Outside the capitol, hundreds of Catholics and other Christians held a prayer vigil, and several members of the California Republican Caucus walked out of the capitol in protest while Williams was honored.
Inside the capitol, Williams received a standing ovation on the assembly floor, and several lawmakers posed for photos with Williams, who was wearing a black gown, heavy white makeup, and a large purple-blue wig.
California Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones issued a statement calling the decision to honor “Sister Roma” at the capitol a “slap in the face to Catholics who cherish their faith and hold it as a cornerstone of their identity.”
“By inviting a prominent leader of this hateful group, Senate Democrats have shown a blatant disregard for the 10 million Catholic Californians in our state,” Jones said. “Were this group to spread hateful messages about Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or any other religion, Senate Democrats would certainly not extend this invitation.”
A national drag group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence uses Catholic religious imagery and themes in protests and sexualized performances to raise awareness and money for LGBT causes. The performers call themselves nuns and regularly use the images of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and women religious.
A member of the drag group since 1987, Williams is an activist, pornography filmmaker, and one of the most well-known Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Williams was honored along with other prominent LGBT figures and was invited by state Sen. Scott Wiener, who is also a well-known LGBT activist.
Before Williams was honored, the California Senate Republican Caucus sent a letter to the Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins requesting she retract the invitation to “Sister Roma.” Atkins refused, calling the request a “misguided distraction on the first day of Pride month.”
The California Legislature’s decision to honor the drag queen activist comes amid controversy over the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence being honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers at a Major League Baseball game on June 16. The team’s decision to honor the group has been decried by prominent Catholics and Christians, including Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen, who said it “disenfranchises a large community and promotes hate of Christians and people of faith.”