(WB) In a rare bipartisan move, a bill that designates the former Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida a national memorial was passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate Wednesday.
Florida’s two U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced Senate Resolution 265 recognizing the fifth anniversary and honoring the 49 victims of the mass shooting attack on the Pulse Nightclub June 12, 2016.
Companion legislation authored by California U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), and also Congressman Darren Soto’s (D-FL) House Resolution 49 that passed by voice vote on May 13 was also passed by the Senate.
“The tragedy at Pulse rocked our community and served as a reminder of the work we have to do to uproot hate and bigotry. We’re proud of the bipartisan coalition of Florida Congressional leaders for leading the effort to recognize this hallowed ground as a national memorial site,” Brandon J. Wolf, the Development Officer and Media Relations Manager for LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida and a Pulse survivor told the Blade. “Our visibility matters. May the 49 lives stolen never be forgotten. And may we always honor them with action.”
Wolf was inside the club at the time of the shooting and lost his two best friends, Juan Ramon Guerrero and Christopher Andrew "Drew" Leinonen, who were among the 49 murdered during the rampage. Wolf had managed to escape but the event has forever left him scarred.
Since that terrible night Wolf has been a force for advocacy in gun control and LGBT equality rights and is a nationally recognized leader in those endeavors to include by President Joe Biden.
“Pulse is hallowed ground and what happened on June 12, 2016 must never be forgotten,” Wolf added.
Florida’s Senator’s both released statements:
“The terrorist attack at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub was a heinous act of violence and hatred against members of the LGBTQ community,” Marco Rubio said. “Forty-nine innocent lives were lost on that horrific day. As the fifth-anniversary approaches, we must continue to honor the memory of those who were taken far too soon. And while work still remains to root out evil, I am inspired by Orlando’s continued resiliency, pride, and strength.”
Rick Scott, who was Florida’s governor at the time of the mass shooting said, “Nearly five years ago today, our state, nation, the City of Orlando, and Hispanic and LGBTQ communities were attacked, and 49 innocent and beautiful lives were lost. It was an unspeakable tragedy,” he said.
“An evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds. But instead, we came together, and supported each other through heartbreak and darkness, to preserve and rebuild. Today, we still stand strong, together, to remember the 49 young lives lost that tragic day and honor their memory with the passage of our resolution and our bill to establish the ‘National Pulse Memorial.’ It is my hope that this memorial will forever serve as a tribute to the victims and a reminder for us all to always stand for love and kindness over hate and evil in this world.”
Although the United States Senate marked the upcoming fifth anniversary by honoring the victims and shooting survivors with the passage of the legislation which now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature, in Florida, Republican Governor Ron De Santis has taken a different tack.
Last week, DeSantis vetoed funding for LGBT programs from the state budget including money earmarked for mental health programming to support survivors of the Pulse Massacre, to house homeless LGBT children, and for Orlando’s LGBT Community Center.
These actions following his signing a bill on June 1, the start of LGBT Pride month — an education bill amended to include a previous stand-alone bill, specifically targeting transgender girls and young women, banning them from playing on female sports teams.
“Let’s be clear about what this is: Governor DeSantis has declared war on Florida’s LGBTQ community,” said Wolf. “Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, almost two years later to the date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”