There are now 986 out LGBTQ elected officials serving in the United States, according to a recent report from LGBTQ Victory Institute, an increase of 17 percent over the past year. One of the major players in this dramatic rise is the LGBTQ Victory Fund. Yet LGBTQ people still hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions nationwide – despite accounting for 5.6 percent of the U.S. population – leaving America to elect 28,116 more out LGBTQ officials to achieve equitable representation.

While the gap is enormous nationwide, the deficits are worst in the South, including in Tennessee where just 10 out LGBTQ elected officials are currently serving in the state. Outside of Nashville, there are just three. This lack of representation for the LGBTQ community can have enormous consequences for legislation and equal rights, as LGBTQ elected officials are typically on the frontlines in defeating anti-LGBTQ bills and proposing more inclusive laws. Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis – who both became the first out LGBTQ state legislators in Tennessee history last year – exemplified this in their leading roles to unsuccessfully defeat anti-LGBTQ bills a few months ago.

Tennessee LGBTQ elected leaders join Victory Fund President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker for a fundraising event earlier this year.

LGBTQ Victory Fund in Tennessee

The lack of representation has not gone unnoticed by LGBTQ Victory Fund, the sister organization of LGBTQ Victory Institute, and the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ people to public office. It invested heavily in Harris’ 2020 state legislative race and works closely with LGBTQ members of the Nashville Metro Council in the state. It is now preparing for its 2022 efforts in the state by holding its Victory in Nashville Reception on Thursday, October 7, which aims to raise money for its efforts to support LGBTQ candidates next year.

“LGBTQ Victory Fund has an incredible base of support in Tennessee and with local partners we are working tirelessly to grow the number of LGBTQ elected officials in the state,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “In 2019 we helped elect an unprecedented number of LGBTQ Metro Council members – leading to the first LGBTQ caucus on the council – and in 2020 helped Torrey Harris join Eddie Mannis in becoming the first two out state legislators. Torrey and Eddie are fighting tirelessly for our equality in the state legislature and we are thrilled to have both of them at the reception on October 7.”

Tennessee has remained a focus for Victory Fund in part because Jim Schmidt, a Nashville resident, is co-chair of the organization’s endorsement committee. His close ties to the organization and the local LGBTQ community have been imperative to its efforts to recruit and support candidates in the state.

Mayor Annise Parker with Jim Schmidt and his husband Joe Woolley at the 2019 Victory in Nashville Reception.

“While Tennessee is behind most of the country in LGBTQ representation, in the past few years we have seen enormous momentum in adding representation,” said Schmidt. “There are endless numbers of qualified LGBTQ people ready to run and take office here, but they need more encouragement, financial and political support because it is still a challenging state for LGBTQ people to run. I encourage Tennesseans to come to the Victory Fund reception and help provide the resources and support we need to start 2022 off strong.”

With state legislative primaries scheduled for August 4 of next year, Victory Fund says it is likely to begin endorsing LGBTQ candidates in Tennessee within the next few months. When endorsing candidates, Victory Fund provides candidates with regular political consultations, fundraising assistance and media visibility support.

The Victory in Nashville Reception event will be held on Thursday, October 7 at Virgin Hotels Nashville at 6:30pm CT. Featured speakers include Victory Fund President & CEO Annise Parker, Tennessee state Representatives Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis, Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge Rachel Bell and Nashville and Davidson County Metro Councilmember Nancy VanReece, among others. Tickets are available at victoryfund.org/event/Nashville.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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