LGBTQ community. Credit: CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix
Two days after omitting mention of LGBTQ Floridians in a memorandum commemorating the 2016 Pulse nightclub shootings, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that he sees no need to include them in an executive order barring discrimination within his administration.
“My office – we do merit only, and I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me to do that. It’s in my interest to do that. We’re open for everybody,” the governor told reporters while attending a citrus industry conference in Bonita Springs.
DeSantis did say he would consider whether protections should extend to LGBTQ people seeking contracts with the state. He added that he made a point of visiting Pulse on Wednesday, the third anniversary of the deaths of 49 mostly minority LGBT people.
“We live in such a fast-paced society, people forget about things when they happen,” DeSantis said. “This was three years ago, and I thought it was important as governor to go there as somebody representing the state of Florida, send a message that we have not forgotten, we have not forgotten the damage that did. Not just to the LGBT [community] but also Orlando and Central Florida. And to mourn the loss of life, but also to express regret – you had a lot of people who had a lot to offer for our state, and we’ve been robbed of that.”
One of DeSantis’ first acts as governor was to issue an executive order establishing a nondiscrimination policy in employment within his administration based on age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability. Missing was any mention of LGBT Floridians.
The same blind spot was on display Tuesday evening, when DeSantis’ office issued a proclamation, over the governor’s signature, ordering flags at state buildings flown at half-staff in memory of the Pulse dead. Again, there was no mention of LGBT people. The office re-issued the document the next morning with the omission rectified, and DeSantis blamed a staff error.
The governor said he plans to approve a $500,000 line item in next fiscal year’s state budget toward a memorial to the Pulse tragedy. “That’s not going to be enough to complete it,” he said. “But, between the state and the local [contributions] we’ll be able to do that.”
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