(SS) Florida’s politicians produced a torrent of words — speeches, tweets, official statements and proclamations — to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
Missing from some of the commemorations was a central element, that the attack was against patrons of Latin night at an LGBT club in Orlando.
That’s a major omission, said Mayor Gary Resnick of Wilton Manors, the unofficial capital of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community in South Florida.
“To the LGBTQ community, Pulse is like our 9/11. There is pre-Pulse and an after-Pulse, and we know exactly where we were when we learned about it,” he said. “It’s a little hypocritical of them to be putting out those types of messages and not putting out any type of support for the LGBT community.”
Statements from two of the state’s top elected Republicans made no reference to the LGBT community.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is seeking the 2018 Republican nomination for governor, issued a statement and tweeted about the first anniversary of the June 12, 2016, attack — the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. Putnam offered prayers for the family friends and loved ones of those who were killed and praised first responders but said nothing about the LGBT community.
Likewise, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, tweeted that Monday was a day to “remember the loved & lost in the terror attack at the Pulse nightclub.” No mention of the LGBT community. Corcoran is a possible candidate for governor.
Fred Fejes, a professor of communication and multimedia studies at Florida Atlantic University, said the omissions by those who didn’t mention the LGBT or Hispanic elements of the attack are “very telling.”
“For some public officials, acknowledging the existence of the LGBT community and somehow including them into American society, they’re not very comfortable with that. A lot of that discomfort has to do with political reasons. They don’t want to identify in any way with the LGBT community,” he said.
Fejes, the author of “Gay Rights and Moral Panic: The Origins of America’s Debate on Homosexuality” and co-editor of “The Ideology of the Information Age,” said it’s not simply a matter of words. “It’s a way of minimizing the existence and the legitimacy of the LGBT community.”
Miik Martorell, president of Pride Fort Lauderdale, said not referring to the LGBT community avoids the full story about what happened that night.
“It happened specifically in an LGBTQ night club that was hosting a Latin night,” Martorell said. “I don’t understand why someone can’t just get over it and say it…. It’s not just a massacre. It’s a massacre in our community, the LGBTQ community.”
Sandy Steen, a Broward Republican Party committeewoman, said she thinks failing to mention the LGBT community is wrong — and is bad politics.
“We need to reach out to everyone. Everyone votes,” said Steen, who is straight and the vice president of the Broward Log Cabin Republicans, a mostly LGBT political club. “They need to grow up,” she said, “and if they want to be elected to higher office, they need to reach out to everyone.”
Democratic LGBT activists were strongly critical. Activist Michael Rajner of Wilton Manors called Putnam “pathetic” on Twitter. Nadine Smith, CEO of the statewide LGBT rights organization Equality Florida, tweeted that Putnam’s omission was “Insulting. Unacceptable. Inexcusable.”
Putnam’s spokeswoman said the campaign didn’t have anything to say beyond his Pulse statement and tweets.
Smith also called out President Donald Trump on Twitter for his Pulse tweet that didn’t mention the LGBT community. “Saying ‘Pulse’ isn't the same as naming the LGBT community targeted by hate. You've already forgotten the victims,” she wrote.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, in an anniversary statement, called the Pulse massacre “an attack on Orlando, our state, the Hispanic community and on the LGBTQ community.” His official proclamation designating Monday “Pulse Remembrance Day” declared that the “LGBTQ and Hispanic communities were viciously attacked during this senseless tragedy.”
Scott can’t run for re-election next year because of term limits. He’s widely expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio referred several times to the “LGBT community” and the club’s Latin night during a Pulse anniversary speech on the Senate floor. In one of several tweets on the massacre, Rubio said it “was an attack on the LGBT community, Florida, America, and our very way of life.”
South Florida Republicans in Congress took different approaches.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami-Dade County Republican who has a transgender son, brought up the Pulse massacre during a floor speech on LGBT pride month. Ros-Lehtinen wrote on Twitter that “During #LGBTPrideMonth we should remember #PulseNightclub attack = stand against anti-#LGBT violence.”
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican who represents northern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, tweeted a picture of the list of Pulse victims’ names and said they should be remembered but didn’t refer to the LGBT community.
Most, but not all Democrats, referred to the LGBT community in their Pulse commemorations.
“We stand with all our LGBTQ brothers and sisters as we still grieve over this unspeakable tragedy,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward/Miami-Dade County Democrat, said in a statement. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Broward/Palm Beach County Democrat said Pulse was “an act of anti-LGBT terrorism.”
But Nelson, who appeared at a Pulse event Monday in Orlando, didn’t mention the LGBT community during his Senate speech later in the day, though he quoted the Facebook post from a trauma surgeon who said it didn’t matter to him if the Pulse victims he treated that night were gay or straight. A Senate resolution to mark the anniversary, sponsored by Nelson and Rubio, referred to it as “a horrific terrorist attack on Pulse Orlando, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender nightclub, during Latin night.”