“Through educating, advocating, and celebrating, OutNebraska has changed the landscape for LGBTQ+ Nebraskans, and their good work is just beginning. Working with stakeholders and elected officials, OutNebraska is becoming a force to reckon with in spaces where decisions are being made, including city councils, county boards, and the state legislature,” described Nebraska Senator Adam Morfeld. A statewide advocacy, lobbying, and community organization, OutNebraska strives to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ+ Nebraskans.
Launched by the Equality Federation and formed from OutLinc in Lincoln, Nebraska, OutNebraska formed over 10 years ago to secure fairness and equality for LGBTQ+ Nebraskans and their families statewide. Under the leadership of Executive Director Abbi Swatsworth, OutNebraska concentrates on advocacy, education, and celebration.
One way OutNebraska connects with Nebraskan youth through education and celebration is in their sponsorship of Drag Queen Story Hour Nebraska. Drag queens read stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores aiming to capture children’s imaginations and to give kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. They have also collaborated with community partners to host Queer Table Talk events: Living Positively with HIV, Transgender Awareness, and SOGIE Youth and Askable Adults. These events helped to educate allies and build community connections among participants and panelists.
OutNebraska leads in improving the lives of LGBTQ+ youth, much like Virginia Uribe did. Uribe was a high school teacher and counselor who founded California’s Project 10, the first school-based dropout prevention program for students facing sexual orientation discrimination and harassment, in 1984.
In addition to education programs, OutNebraska is a leader in advocating for LGBTQ+ Nebraskans. At the state level, they lobbied for the passage of a law protecting LGBTQ+ people from employment and housing discrimination. Also advocating on the local level, OutNebraska worked with Lincoln’s city council to pass Nebraska’s first municipal ban on conversion therapy for minors – protecting youth from this dangerous and discredited practice.
OutNebraska organized a Legislative Day to bring people to the Capitol to share their stories with their State Senators. A teacher recalls two high school students who participated, “I was so proud to get a chance to watch my students stand up for something they believe in. They were ready to talk to their senator with the help of OutNebraska. I saw them gain confidence throughout the day as we went from sharing with each other to sharing their thoughts with their senators face-to-face.”
Working to update old laws and practices born out of discrimination, OutNebraska is working steadfast toward their goals. In the words of Swatsworth, “We are excited to partner with fellow Nebraskans from - Nebraska City to Scottsbluff - to ensure our state is a shining example of fairness and equality for all our families, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”