Christine Leinonen lost her son Christopher and his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero a year ago in the Pulse nightclub shooting, and has been advocating everyday since to end homophobia and transphobia in her community and her state.
“I carry the grief from the loss of Christopher in my heart every single day, along with a determination to honor his life through advocacy,” Leinonen said in a statement. “This is so important, as we have seen hate crimes on the rise through our state and nation, and should remind lawmakers that they have an obligation to protect all residents.”
In the days following the massacre, Governor Rick Scott told LGBT activists in backroom meetings that he would sign an executive order to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity throughout state hiring and contracting, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
It has already been a year, and that promise remains unkept.
“He promised, and his office gave us every indication that this was going to happen,” Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida Democrat and former Equality Florida lobbyist, told the Times. “At this point, it is a broken promise.”
Politicians were not the only ones to notice Gov. Scott’s failure to sign an order. Leinonen encouraged Gov. Scott to uphold his promise to ensure that no one else in the state of Florida has to go without protections from discrimination.
“By issuing this executive order, the governor can help uproot hate and protect LGBTQ state employees and government contractors from discrimination,” Leinonen said. “With the stroke of a pen, he can signal that hate has no place in our state.”
“Yet,” Leinonen continued. “The governor continues to do nothing and allows bigotry to go unchecked. Laws set the tone to serve as the moral compass of our society. Yet, the state of Florida fails to give its own citizens protection against being fired for being LGBTQ.”
Currently in Florida it is legal to fire, refuse to rent or decline to serve people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. An executive order from Gov. Scott would ban discrimination in the hiring process and workplace, and broader protections being advocated for by Equality Florida would extend those protections to housing and public accommodations.
Though Gov. Scott has yet to act on the issue, Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman of the state, said that Florida “doesn’t tolerate discrimination in any form.”
“In accordance with federal guidelines, Florida state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way,” Schenone continued. “Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind.”
Still, Leinonen and advocates continue to fight for unilateral legislation to explicitly ensure protections against discrimination of any kind in the state.
“Gov. Rick Scott, it’s time to lead,” Leinonen said. “Please honor my son and the other 48 angels who were taken by hate with action.”