The Phoenix Flyer

Gov. DeSantis changes statement on Pulse nightclub shooting anniversary after getting criticism for omitting LGBTQ people

By: - June 12, 2019 11:49 am

Flags are at half-staff at the Capitol today, the third anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people lost their lives in what was at the time the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Gov. Ron DeSantis is planning to visit the site at 5 pm today.

DeSantis announced Tuesday night in a proclamation that the tragedy would be observed, and  mentioned that “an ISIS-inspired terrorist targeted our state and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.”

Later in the written statement, the governor noted that the state “has come together to stand boldly with Orlando and the Central Florida community against terrorism.”

Missing was any acknowledgement of the LGBTQ community. The Pulse was a gay nightclub.

DeSantis’  omission was noted Tuesday night on Twitter by state Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orange County, who said that former Governor Rick Scott’s proclamation issued last year observing the second anniversary of the Pulse tragedy had included the LGBTQ community.

“Based on these side-by-side Pulse proclamations, Governor Rick Scott was a better friend to LGBTQ Floridians than DeSantis,” she wrote.

Apparently reacting to the fallout on social media, DeSantis then sent out a tweet of his own at 8 a.m. Wednesday, noting that the shooting targeted the LGBTQ and the Hispanic community.

“Today we mourn the loss of life of 49 innocent victims of an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that targeted the LGBTQ and Hispanic community, and Florida as a whole. In honor of their memory, I am ordering flags to be lowered to half-staff.”

The governor’s office then announced at 12:40 p.m. that it was issuing a “correct version” of the proclamation.

“I was not involved in the proclamation,” DeSantis told reporters later in Jacksonville. “When someone said that this wasn’t in there, I said, well, to put it in there. So we fixed it. I’ll be going to Pulse after this for the third anniversary. Obviously, we flew the flags at half-staff. That was the reason why we put out the proclamation. Sometimes these things happen, and you’ve just got to correct it.”

But Rep. Eskamani was not impressed, and says the governor owes the LGBTQ community an apology.

“Advocacy matters. No doubt he saw the blowback on social media and is doing damage control,” Eskamani told the Phoenix, adding that it is time for him to step up on gay rights.

“An apology is warranted for the original proclamation and though I appreciate the recognition of the LGBTQ people through a tweet, I demand now more than ever that he offer LGBTQ protections to state workers and push the legislation to pass the Competitive Workforce Act.”

As the Phoenix reported on Tuesday, outrage from the recent homophobic exchange between Pensacola Republican Rep. Mike Hill and a citizen last month has led advocates, Democrats and some Republicans to call for GOP leadership in Tallahassee to finally pass the Competitive Workforce Act, a proposal that would add LGBTQ people to the list of protected groups statewide who cannot legally be discriminated against.

At a town hall meeting in Pensacola, Hill was caught on tape laughing at the suggestion that gay men should face the Biblical punishment of being put to death.

Legislation to add the LGBTQ community to the state list of people protected against discrimination has been proposed in the Legislature over the past decade, but hasn’t gained traction. A similar measure proposed by Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters (a state senator from Sarasota) also failed to get a hearing during the 2019 legislative session.

DeSantis also alienated the gay community in his first week in office in January, when he signed an executive order stating that his administration would prohibit discrimination in employment based on sex, age, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability, but did not include the LGBTQ community.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.