Wilton Manors Commission Honors Orlando Victims

May rename Dixie Highway after Harvey Milk. Photo by Steven T. Shires.

With miniature Pride flags and a sign that read “Love Always Wins” adorning the dais, commissioners honored the victims of the Sunday morning massacre that took place at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando.

Commissioners each took turns reading the names of the 49 victims who were murdered by the anti-gay extremist who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS before himself being killed by police.

“We are all one family,” said Commissioner Julie Carson. “From Stonewall to Laramie to now Orlando, it’s not all tragedies,” said Commissioner Justin Flippen, referring to the recent court and legal battles the LGBT community has won.

“We are no longer a soft target. We are a hard target. This can happen anywhere,” said Mayor Gary Resnick. He added that he went to his first gay bar in his 20s, when he hadn’t revealed his sexual orientation to family and friends yet, and had a lot of fears about being outed and not fitting in. But being murdered with AR-15 wasn’t one of them. “That never dawned on me. I don’t know why anyone needs to buy an assault rifle.”

Commissioner Scott Newton said he couldn’t understand how someone could hate another group of people so much. “It’s so much easier to love than to hate.”

One audience member criticized the use of the word “love” and said fundamentalist Christians are a much bigger threat to the LGBT community than fundamentalist Muslims. “I want justice first. You can talk about love. Love takes character. It’s easier to hate.”

Commissioner Tom Green said he’s seen the progress the LGBT community has made in Broward County and all the wide amount of acceptance that has been gained. But, obviously, not everyone accepts LGBT individuals for who they are yet. He added that he’s not ready to talk about love. “I hope the love part will come later. We will recover from this but we will never forget.”

As part of never forgetting, Green wants the city to look into the possibility of renaming Dixie Highway, south of Five Points, after Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay elected official in California. Milk, a San Francisco city supervisor, and Mayor George Moscone were murdered in 1978 by Dan White, a former city supervisor.

Green said he wants Dixie chosen because of the Confederate-related name and so younger LGBT individuals see Milk’s name and ask about who he was. “I know this is going to upset a lot of people. Anything different always does,” Green said.

Flippen suggested that other history-making LGBT officials could be candidates.

Carson said the commission looked at renaming a street several years ago and found that it was very costly financially. Green responded that the city had named part of Northeast 5 Avenue “Diane Cline Way” after the late Diane Cline, a former city council member. Carson replied that it was only an honorary renaming.

But names are not enough, said Flippen. He suggested a policy statement from the commission to the state legislature regarding stricter gun laws. “It’s not enough to read names.”

But names are about the only thing the commission can offer.

Resnick pointed to the state statute that prevents local governments from regulating the manufacture, sale, or distribution of firearms. Elected officials who violate the statute can be fined up to $5,000 and be removed from office by the governor, and public funds cannot be used to defend them in court. Any local laws passed can also be nullified by the legislature.

“The gun lobby in Florida has really screwed us,” Resnick said.

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