Democrat Keturah Herron won a special election for a vacant Kentucky state legislative seat on Tuesday, a victory that will make her the first-ever openly LGBTQ member of the state House of Representatives.
Herron, an activist and former policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, played an instrumental role in the Kentucky state legislature’s passage of a law that limited the use of no-knock warrants in the wake of the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman whom Louisville police shot and killed after raiding her home in March 2020.
Herron, who is Black, has also advocated for and helped draft other potential changes to state law, including legislation that would permanently restore voting rights to Kentuckians convicted of felony convictions.
Herron easily defeated Republican opponent Judy Martin Stallard in the race for the Louisville state legislative seat, which opened when longtime state Rep. Reginald Meeks (D) retired last year. She will serve as part of the Democratic minority in the state House, and Republicans will hold a 75-25 majority once she is sworn into office.
She does, however, boast experience working with GOP lawmakers in the Kentucky legislature: “Breonna’s law,” as the bill banning no-knock warrants is known, passed with bipartisan support last year. Herron, the ACLU and other advocacy groups have also won backing from leading Republicans for the CROWN Act, a bill that would bar businesses and schools from discriminating against Black Kentuckians based on their hairstyles. Legislation to permanently restore voting rights to people with felony convictions, which Herron has pushed for in recent legislative sessions, also has support from Republicans.
Tuesday’s victory will make Herron the third Black woman currently serving in the Kentucky state legislature. Prior to Democratic state Rep. Attica Scott’s 2016 victory, it had been nearly two decades since a Black woman held a Kentucky state legislative seat. Scott is now running in a Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D).
Herron’s win comes just a week after Kentucky’s GOP-controlled state Senate approved legislation that would ban transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, part of a nationwide Republican push that has accelerated in the last two years.
Former state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone (D) became the first openly gay state legislator in Kentucky history in 2003, when he came out while in office. Scorsone left the legislature in 2008 after he was appointed to a judgeship.
Lexington, the state’s second-largest city, elected Jim Gray (D) as mayor in 2010, making it one of the nation’s largest cities to elect an openly gay mayor at the time. Gray ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 and became the first openly gay candidate to win a major party nomination for a statewide office in Kentucky, but he lost to Sen. Rand Paul in the general election. Gray also ran for Congress in 2018, a race that would have made him Kentucky’s first openly gay member of Congress, but he lost in the Democratic primary.