Omaha Native Drew Heckman to Serve as HRC Nebraska’s First-Ever Field Organizer

by Ianthe Metzger

HRC Nebraska Also Unveils Results of Statewide LGBT Survey

OMAHA— Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, announced Drew Heckman as HRC Nebraska’s first-ever Field Organizer and released results of its statewide LGBT survey.  Heckman will lead the organization’s effort across the state to advance equality for LGBT people. Using the resources of HRC and collaborating with local organizations, Heckman will work to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections, and build more inclusive institutions.

“Drew is a proud product of the Cornhusker State, and has the courage to stand for what is right and what LGBT Nebraskans deserve,” said HRC Director of Programmatic Development Brad Clark. “Drew knows what it takes to work with partner community groups and lawmakers to ensure all Nebraskans are treated with dignity and respect—gay and straight alike.”

Heckman has a passion for grassroots organizing and bringing communities together to advance equality. An Omaha native, Heckman earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, and has been very active in LGBT advocacy for many years.  In 2010, he founded the Queer Nebraska Youth Network, which has reached and organized more than 1,000 LGBT youth across Nebraska.  Heckman has worked closely with the Nebraska AIDS Project, which is helping to fight the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS. He has also collaborated with Inclusive Communities, an Omaha-based advocacy organization that works to overcome discrimination and build a more just and inclusive society. 

“My passion has always been simple: to create a Nebraska in which all LGBT people can feel safe, accepted, and respected in their hometowns,” said Heckman. “I know Nebraska can make a positive change to ensure all people have equal opportunities and respect of the law. Together LGBT people and their straight allies can stand for full equality.”

Today, HRC also released key findings from a comprehensive survey of LGBT Nebraskans. The survey shows that while LGBT people in the Cornhusker State are active members of their communities, they face disturbingly high levels of discrimination while receiving no state-level protections as well as very few at the municipal level.  Currently, Omaha is the only city in Nebraska with a non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBT people. The assessment is the impetus for the creation of HRC Nebraska.

The survey reveals LGBT Nebraskans are engaged members of their communities:

·         57 percent of respondents have called Nebraska home for more than 20 years.

·         7 percent have served, or are serving, in the armed forces.

·         59 percent volunteer in their communities.

·         68 percent donate money to charitable groups and nonprofits.

LGBT people also actively participate in their faith communities and are raising families. HRC’s survey reveals 66 percent of those surveyed ages 18-25 intend to have children one day and 31 percent are people of faith. In addition, according to a 2010 Census study by the Williams InstituteNebraska has one of the highest rates of same-sex couples raising children of any state in the country.

“Faith and strong families are essential values in the lives of LGBT people,” said HRC Faith and Religion associate director Joseph Ward. “This survey clearly shows LGBT Nebraskans and their families actively participate in their churches.”

However, the survey also revealed they face some very harsh realities. The assessment determined:

·         41 percent have experienced harassment at work.

·         38 percent have experienced harassment by members of their own family.

·         42 percent have experienced harassment in public establishments.

·         13 percent have experienced harassment from a public servant like a police officer or fire fighter.

·         22 percent have experienced harassment at their respective houses of worship.

The study also found that 41 percent of respondents experienced harassment during their years in school, and that the level of harassment worsened over time. 25 percent reported harassment while in elementary school; 38 percent while in middle school and 43 percent while in high school.

Healthcare is also a concern for LGBT people and their families. 87 percent of LGBT respondents surveyed by HRC have health insurance, but only 36 percent have access to partner benefits.

Respondents also listed what they considered their priorities in the fight for LGBT equality in the Cornhusker State. Those included:

·         Prevent harassment and violence against LGBT people.

·         Reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS and advance awareness of treatment and prevention.

·         Increase workplace protections.

·         Support LGBT youth in schools and their communities.

·         Ensure LGBT families have the protections and dignity they deserve through marriage.

“Although LGBT Nebraskans face challenges living in the communities they love, they remain committed to creating an environment that is safe and nurturing,” said HRC Programmatic Development deputy director Karin Quimby, “HRC Nebraska will work across the state to advance enduring legal protections.”

The statewide survey of 670 LGBT Nebraskans was conducted by the research firm Anzalone Liszt Grove. Click here to learn more about HRC Nebraska.

 The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.


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