A Mississippi Democrat is poised to make history as the state’s first out LGBTQ elected official after winning a primary election runoff last Tuesday.
Fabian Nelson, a 38-year-old realtor from Byram, Mississippi, defeated Byram Alderwoman Roshunda Harris-Allen, a professor at Tougaloo College in Jackson, in the Democratic primary runoff election for the state’s 66th House District.
The seat’s current incumbent, De’Keither Stamps, is running for the state’s Public Service Commission in this year’s off-year elections.
Because no Republicans have filed for the general election, Nelson is expected to win handily and be sworn in sometime before Jan. 2, when Mississippi’s annual legislative session kicks off.
When he is sworn in next year, Nelson will become the first out LGBTQ person elected to any office in Mississippi, which will lose its distinction as one of only two states where an LGBTQ person has never held public office.
“I still think I’m in a dream,” Nelson told NBC News. “I’m still trying to process it and take it in. It’s still shocking me, I have to be honest.”
In his bid for office, Nelson was endorsed by both the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund.
In June, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ people in the United States, pointing to a flood of more than 500 bills in 41 states — nearly 80 of which have become law — targeting LGBTQ rights, LGBTQ visibility, and freedom of expression. More than 40% of those bills have specifically targeted transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming youth.
“I think a lot of youth around the state who have felt like their leaders are rejecting them or targeting them won’t feel as lonely today,” Rob Hill, state director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Mississippi chapter, remarked to NBC News of Nelson’s victory.
Raised by politically active parents, Nelson’s ambitions were sparked as early as his elementary school days.
“When I was in fourth grade, we went to the Mississippi State Capitol, and I remember walking in the galley to look at the floor of the House. I saw these guys in suits and these big, old high-backed chairs. I remember looking down, and I told my teacher, ‘One of these days I am going to sit down there,’” Nelson told The New York Times in a recent interview.
Nelson acknowledges the historical importance of his victory, but also notes that he did not emphasize LGBTQ issues when he campaigned throughout the district, which includes parts of South Jackson and small towns and rural areas southwest of the city. Instead, he focused on daily-life issues like the city of Jackson’s potable water crisis, crime, economic development, and broadband access.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s great being first, but ultimately what won this campaign is the fact that I’m in touch with my community and the issues my community is facing,” Nelson told NBC News.
“What I want people to understand is Mississippi now has somebody that’s going to fight for every single person,” Nelson told the Times. “I’m going to fight for people in District 66 — those are the people I represent. The issues I’m going to fight for are my platform issues. However, when anti-LGBTQ legislation comes up, which I know it will, I am going to fight that every single day.
Nelson plans to be an advocate for all marginalized groups, not just the LGBTQ community. But he hopes that having an out LGBTQ person serving in the state legislature will make it more difficult for his fellow lawmakers to justify any future anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“We cannot have any group discriminated against,” he told the Times. “It’s OK to disagree with a person, it’s OK to disagree with a person’s lifestyle, but it is not OK to impose on that person’s civil liberties and civil rights.”
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