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May 30, 2024

Tennessee elects its first transgender lawmaker

Tennessee elects its first transgender lawmaker

Nashville voters elected Tennessee’s first transgender lawmaker Thursday, according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a political action group that aims to elect queer people to public office.

The historic victory comes months after Tennessee made national headlines for passing laws that restrict certain drag performances and prohibit transition-related medical care for minors. 

Olivia Hill, 57, won one of Nashville Metro Council’s four nonpartisan seats up for grabs, securing 12.9% of the vote, according to election data site Ballotpedia. She served in the Navy for 10 years as an engineer before working as an engineer for Vanderbilt University, according to her campaign website. She has also been a vocal LGBTQ advocate in Nashville and beyond, serving on the board of directors for the Tennessee Pride Chamber, the website says.

“My expertise is fixing things, and while my focus for my native city is repairing Nashville’s outdated infrastructure, I also want to ensure that Nashville is represented with true diversity in a state where the ruling party thinks I should head to the closet,” she said in a statement prior to her win.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which endorsed Hill, applauded her victory and took aim at the state’s conservative lawmakers. 

“Nashville voters clearly reject the hateful rhetoric that has grown louder in Tennessee politics lately,” Parker said in a statement. “Olivia’s victory proves that transgender people belong everywhere decisions about them are being made, including local office.”

Hill’s win coincides with seemingly competing phenomena: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are being elected to public office at historically high rates, while a record number of anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced in state legislatures across the country. 

Last year, at least 400 openly LGBTQ candidates — the majority of whom are Democrats — won their elections, according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, surpassing 2020’s record of 336 and 2018’s record of 244.

In November, notable wins included the election of the country’s first lesbian governors: Maura Healey in Massachusetts and Tina Kotek in Oregon. And in New Hampshire, James Roesener became the first trans man elected to a state legislature.

Less than a year after these historic wins for the LGBTQ community, another record was made:  So far this year, 496 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, with 84 of them passed into law, according to a tally by the American Civil Liberties Union

Tennessee has been one of several state leaders in terms of proposing and enacting anti-LGBTQ laws this year. The state introduced 26 anti-LGBTQ measures this year, according to the ACLU. In March, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a measure into law that would restrict transition-related care for minors and a first-of-its-kind bill that would prohibit some drag performances. 

A federal judge ruled the Tennessee drag law as unconstitutional in June. The state’s law on gender-affirming care for minors is still in effect as it is being challenged in the courts.  

Matt Lavietes

Reporter, NBC OUT

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