An openly gay man from Sioux Falls was elected to the South Dakota legislature on Tuesday, making history.
After collecting the second-most votes in a new district that sends two members to the House, Kameron Nelson, who claimed virtually everyone he met on the campaign trail was receptive of him being out gay, will represent District 10 in central Sioux Falls.
Angie Buhl, now a former state senator, disclosed her bisexuality during her time in government. Nelson is the first non-heterosexual person to be elected to public office in South Dakota, although others have run.
Nelson, who is the Director of Major Gifts for Lifescape, a service that provides resources for children and adults with disabilities, has said he is “humbled” by the breakthrough and the flurry of attention it has received from local media and national outlets like Out magazine and Advocate magazine.
‘Well, I never felt like the homosexual candidate,’ Nelson added. As a candidate for District 10, “I was always thinking about what the people in my district wanted to hear from me.”
More specifically, younger voters prefer Nelson. The 32-year-old was born in Rapid City, went to college at South Dakota State University, worked for a while in Minneapolis, and then relocated back to Sioux Falls to be closer to his family and his present position.
Nelson, who was one of just eight Democrats to win a seat out of a total of 70, noted that regardless of one’s political persuasion, most people just want to make ends meet, have friendly neighbors, and feel comfortable in their own homes.
The young folks of today want to see the same things that I do in the community where I’ve chosen to make my home,” Nelson added. It’s crucial to retain South Dakota’s youth here, since they are the state’s future. They care more about the town and are more likely to remain if they have a hand in making decisions about its future. They’re eager to spend time in this location. They’re raising their families here because they love South Dakota and want their children to experience life here.
As an openly homosexual candidate for House District 6 in 2020 and Sioux Falls City Council this past spring, 31-year-old Indiana transplant Cody Ingle is one of those individuals.
Although he did not try to disguise his sexuality during either campaign, like Nelson, Ingle lost both races and later said that it was “very impossible to estimate how much” being out gay affected his candidacy.
The treasurer and secretary of Sioux Falls Pride are thrilled for Nelson and think it will pave the way for other openly LGBTQ+ candidates in the future.
As Ingle put it, “it’s a win for South Dakota because we’re going to have a very smart and capable an intelligent legislator,” and “it’s a win for the LGBTQ-plus community because now we have somebody who we can see ourselves in, who is a representation of who we are” in Pierre with lawmakers, creating laws that can affect change. And I believe it gives more people the confidence to run for these contests, to see someone who has won, and to keep on fighting and wanting to be involved in local politics.
Ingle also said that visibility for “those that are uncomfortable with LGBTQ+ individuals that don’t really want to make an attempt to alter that” was another result of Nelson being the first face and voice for South Dakota’s LGBTQ+ community in Pierre. Some lawmakers may fall into this category as well, and Nelson has said that he is willing to sit down with those who had previously sponsored “a number of legislation that not only don’t prop us up, but really work against us.”
Nelson, whom Ingle describes as “personable,” has claimed that he has never thought that being homosexual has been an issue for him and that he was able to be himself when campaigning beginning in July.
But, as Nelson pointed out, “it comes with a lot of personal privilege.” I am a white, cisgender male, 6 feet tall. Apparently, I can “pass,” as they say. My experiences are not typical of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, since there are many people who have it much worse than I do. Many individuals have been portrayed negatively for far too long. This must end.