Fabian Nelson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fabian Nelson Poised to Become Mississippi’s First LGBTQ Lawmaker

Fabian Nelson, a Black and openly gay Democratic candidate, looks to become the first out LGBTQ lawmaker ever to serve in the Mississippi legislature.

The Associated Press reports that Nelson, a 38-year-old realtor from Byram in the south Jackson metro area, in the Aug. 8 primary defeated his opponent Roshunda Harris-Allen, an education professor at Tougaloo College and Byram alderwoman.

The race to represent Mississippi’s 66th House District was decided in a runoff after neither Nelson nor Allen received a majority vote. Since the Republican Party did not field a candidate for the general election, Nelson will go on to be sworn into office when the state legislature meets in January.

“I still think I’m in a dream. I’m still trying to process it and take it in,” Nelson said in an interview with the AP on Wednesday. “It’s still shocking to me, I have to be honest.”

In a statement, Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, said Mississippi is “one of the last two states to achieve the milestone of electing an out LGBTQ+ lawmaker.

“Voters in Mississippi should be proud of the history they’ve made but also proud to know they’ll be well-represented by Fabian,” Parker said.

White House Correspondent Christopher Kane spoke with Nelson last spring during the Victory Fund’s National Champagne Brunch in D.C. Nelson acknowledged the challenges with racism and homophobia that he has continued to contend with as a candidate, along with the hostile political environment in which he would serve if elected. Still, he is optimistic the potential to move Mississippi in a better direction.

“At the end of the day, I put my suit on the same way every other person who walks in that statehouse does,” Nelson told the AP on Wednesday after his victory was assured. “I’m going to walk in there, and I’m going to be a sound voice as to why things like this can’t continue to go on in the state of Mississippi.”

Mississippi has a Republican trifecta as well as a Republican triplex, which means the party exerts tremendous political power with control over both chambers of the state’s legislature and the governorship, along with the offices of the secretary of state and attorney general.

Nelson would represent residents of Mississippi’s majority-Black state capital, Jackson, which has long suffered with issues like high poverty rates and rising crime, including gun violence.

Years of poor governance have exacerbated these problems, while the state’s conservative legislators have used the city’s condition as a pretext to strip residents of the right to choose their elected leaders.

Nelson has an expensive range of policy areas that he said will be major priorities should he win the House seat, from expanding Mississippi’s Medicaid program to fighting back against the conservatives’ disenfranchisement of his constituents in Jackson and their harmful anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals.

Nelson is not just encountering anti-LGBTQ bigotry in the legislative context, but also that which has been directed at him personally as a gay candidate for public office in a deep-red state in the deep south. Especially in Mississippi and among older folks in the state, homophobia can come from voters and elected officials even from his own party, Nelson said.

“I think [my] being LGBTQ may pose a problem with some of the Democratic lawmakers” in the chamber, he said.

The AP also noted that Nelson was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization.

“It sends a real message in a time when we are seeing attacks legislatively and through violence against the LGBTQ+ community that the majority of people reject that kind of animus,” Rob Hill, state director of HRC’s Mississippi chapter, said in an interview after Nelson’s victory. “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.”

Christopher Kane contributed to this story.

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/