What does “self-isolation” mean for homeless people? This lesbian priest wants to fight for them.

What does “self-isolation” mean for homeless people? This lesbian priest wants to fight for them.
Kim Jackson, candidate for Georgia state senate Photo: Photo by Cindy Brown

Lesbian Episcopal priest Kim Jackson, a Democrat, wants to be Georgia’s first out LGBTQ state senator.

Fighting for change, she told LGBTQ Nation, has always been a top priority. And right now, the Georgia State Senate is in dire need of more diverse representation.

Related: Giorgi Tabagari is fighting for LGBTQ rights in Georgia: “Let’s hope it doesn’t get me killed”

“There is significant [LGBTQ] representation in the House of Representatives already,” she said. “But if you look at the anti-LGBT bills that have come forth, most are introduced in the Senate, and I think that’s in part because they don’t have any colleagues who are part of that community.”

Jackson is running in District 41, which encompasses parts of Atlanta. She has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund and was also named one of Emory University’s 2019 “40 under 40.”

Jackson, the first out queer person of color to be ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, believes Georgia state senators need an out colleague of faith to help change hearts and minds.

Many Georgia legislators, she explained, and especially those supporting anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion bills, are practicing Christians. A voice like hers is necessary to show them that religion and equality are not mutually exclusive.

“Georgia needs desperately a progressive voice that is theologically trained who can speak directly to those issues, and talk about the ways there’s A) a separation between church and state that we need to respect and also B)… our Christian theology is bigger and broader than what they’ve been bringing to the floor.”

Jackson has always used her role as a religious leader to fight for social justice. She is currently the interim vicar at Church of the Common Ground, which focuses on serving Atlanta’s homeless population. The church does not have its own building. Rather, gatherings take place in public places like parks.

As such, affordable housing is an important issue for Jackson in this race. She is also devoted to fighting the rising prices that prevent older people from being able to “age in place.”

Right now especially, Jackson says, as we are in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, the city’s homeless population is in dire need of help.

“In order to get food if you’re experiencing homelessness, people have been really at the mercy of churches, mosques, religious communities, and people of good will,” Jackson explained, “and now that people of good will are quarantined in their homes, food has become very difficult to come by, and the state, in all of her wisdom in seeking to address this pandemic, has failed to address that particular issue.”

As more of Georgia nears the possibility of a shelter-in-place directive, she continued, it won’t mean much for those who have no shelter.

“I think this pandemic is exposing some of Georgia’s greatest long-term gaps in our social fabric. We don’t have affordable housing so people are living on the street. People cannot access the medical care they need in the ways that they need it. We have not addressed the issue of homelessness broadly speaking, but particularly for the pandemic. States outside of Georgia have put hand-washing stations outside in public parks. Georgia has failed to do that.”

The Democratic primary will take place on May 19, 2020. Jackson will face off against Gil Freeman, Jahangir Hossain, Beverly Jones, and television personality Pastor Sabrina McKenzie. District 41’s current representative, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, is not seeking reelection this year.

Jackson believes she stands out for her combined abilities to listen well, be empathetic, and think critically. “I bring a fight with me, and a willingness to speak up and to advocate, and to insist that we do better for everyone.”

In addition to affordable housing, Jackson plans to fight for equitable school funding, voting rights protection, gun safety legislation, and Medicaid expansion.

She also wants the LGBTQ community to know how honored she would feel to break such an important barrier. “I’m incredibly humbled and proud to have that opportunity to make history in that way.”

She knows a victory could especially mean a lot to queer youth of color in her state. “I do think a lot about the kids who are queer, especially queer kids of color, who will have someone in the seat who looks like them, who loves like they do, and I think that really really matters.”

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