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After conservative pushback, Children's Hospital clarifies Heartland Pride sponsorship

Posted at 6:08 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 15:04:25-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For the last few years, Heartland Pride has been an outlet for some in the Omaha metro to celebrate diversity and foster an inclusive environment.

In the past, it had a flurry of corporate sponsors and this year is no exception with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha sponsoring the 2022 event.

But in June came criticism, a tweet specifically from John Gage, a Jim Pillen campaign staff member, criticizing the hospital for sponsoring the pride event that included a drag show. His brother Taylor Gage, former executive director of the Nebraska GOP, also denounced it on Twitter.

Then the Libs of Tik Tok account, with over one million followers, joined in, condemning the hospital for information on their website that indicated they performed hormone therapy for adolescents which includes reversible hormone blockers.

Now checking the website, none of the information appears to be there.

Children's said in a statement on their website that they sponsor the event to recruit a diverse workforce.

“We cultivate an inclusive environment where people feel they belong,” said the Children’s statement.

In that same statement, the hospital said children and families who seek care relating to gender identity will be given evidence-based best practice, aligned with standards from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and that they do not perform gender-transitioning surgeries.

While Children’s remains a sponsor of the event, Phillip Koenig, President of Heartland Pride, tells 3 News Now that Children’s has “opted to just not use all of the marketing resources this year” and he believes they’re the only sponsor not to make that decision.

Children's also confirmed to 3 News Now they made changes to their website, with a spokesperson telling 3 News Now they recently needed to clarify the sponsorship.

“We made refinements to our web content to ensure we are as clear as possible. Some content was contributing to confusion about our services and distracting from our mission,” said a Children's spokesperson.

This type of criticism is nothing new and just this month the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was criticized for holding drag shows in a story by Breitbart.

Sara Rips, LGBTQIA+ Legal & Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska, says she’s seen the criticism a lot recently and the people that push the attacks hone in on insecurity and fear.

“To generate press, just like what’s happening now, to get attention and try to skew stories to promote an agenda,” said Rips.

Children's goes on to say they welcome all children and families and again, they are still a sponsor of this weekend’s events.

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