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Tennessee – yes, Tennessee – just elected out LGBT+ lawmakers for the first time

Nick Duffy November 4, 2020
Democrat Torrey Harris and Republican Eddie Mannis are Tennessee's first out LGBT+ lawmakers

Democrat Torrey Harris and Republican Eddie Mannis are Tennessee's first out LGBT+ lawmakers

Two out LGBT+ lawmakers have become the first ever elected to office in Tennessee.

Democrat Torrey Harris and Republican Eddie Mannis have both been called as the winners of their races for the Tennessee state house of representatives, becoming the first openly LGBT+ people to ever hold seats in the state’s legislature.

A third out candidate, Brandon Thomas, could also win a spot in the Tennessee house, but his race is yet to be called.

Victories ‘send a clear message’ to queer people in Tennessee

Annise Parker of LGBTQ Victory Fund said: “Twin victories secured a long-elusive political milestone in Tennessee and will pave the way for a more representative state legislature next year.

“Both Torrey and Eddie sent a clear message that LGBTQ candidates can win in a deep red state while being their authentic selves.

“Their presence in the state legislature can dilute the most toxic anti-LGBTQ voices and lead to more inclusive legislation.”

Mannis, now one of only a handful of out Republican lawmakers nationwide, tweeted: “Thank you District 18! I look forward to representing each and every one of you in Nashville.”

Bisexual Democrat Torrey Harris triumphed in Tennessee
Bisexual Democrat Torrey Harris triumphed in Tennessee

Both of the candidates had largely focussed on local issues, with Harris explaining to the Daily Memphian: “It’s been very much so accepted across my entire district. Of course, it’s not something I lead with, it’s just part of who I am.

“I don’t walk up to people and say, ‘I’m Black, my name’s Torrey Harris.’ I don’t walk up to them and say, ‘I’m bisexual, I’m Torrey Harris.'”

Five states have never had an out LGBT+ lawmaker

Before Tuesday (November 3), Tennessee was one of just five states in the nation to have never elected an out LGBT+ person to its state legislature, alongside Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The ceiling has also been shattered in Delaware, with LGBT+ rights champion Sarah McBride becoming not only her state’s first out LGBT+ lawmaker, but also the first transgender person to sit in a state senate anywhere in the US.

She will be joined in the Delaware legislature by two more out lawmakers, Eric Morrison and Marie Pinkney.

A proud lesbian, Lyn Franks, is also hoping to bust the barrier in Alaska, though her race is yet to be called.

More: 2020 US election, Eddie Mannis, Tennessee, Torrey Harris

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