June is Pride Month. The 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub, which occurred three years ago today, killed 49 people at an event held for gay Latino men.
Yet Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — or someone in his administration — decided it was necessary this year to scrub mentions of the LGBTQ community from the state's yearly Pulse Memorial Day proclamation. In 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott's memo noted the state continues to "mourn the tragic loss of life and recognize the lasting impact it has on our state and communities, including Florida's LGBTQ community." But DeSantis' proclamation, his first as governor, oddly scrubbed the mention of the "LGBTQ community" and replaced it with the "Orlando and Central Florida community."
Hours after being browbeaten online for the statement, DeSantis seemingly backpedaled this morning and tweeted that the attack "targeted the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities, and Florida as a whole." His office later released a statement claiming the edits were a “staff error.” His spokesperson, former Trump employee Helen Aguirre Ferre, said DeSantis would issue a “corrected” memo that does actually mention the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.
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.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 12, 2019
State Rep. Anna Eskamani first flagged the difference on Twitter last night. She called the statement "completely straight-washed" and went on to lambaste DeSantis for failing to mention the Latin community or any communities of color.
"Imagine if the Mayor of Pittsburgh didn’t talk about the Jewish community in a proclamation about the synagogue shooting," she wrote, referencing the anti-Semitic massacre carried out by a white supremacist at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018. "That would NEVER happen. But I guess denying the existence of #LGBTQ people is ok in Florida."
@GovRonDeSantis has stripped any mention of the #LGBTQ community in remembering #Pulse. This is completely straight-washed and an insult to #HD47.— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (@AnnaForFlorida) June 12, 2019
Based on these side-by-side Pulse proclamations, Governor Rick Scott was a better friend to LGBTQ Floridians than DeSantis. pic.twitter.com/2nvUE343XG
PS: Governor Rick Scott is a low bar to not meet. Absolutely shameful.— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (@AnnaForFlorida) June 12, 2019
Also no mention of #Latinx community members or communities of color— 49 mostly queer black & brown people were murdered in Orlando and our Governor recognizes them by erasing them.— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (@AnnaForFlorida) June 12, 2019
She added that "Governor Rick Scott is a low bar to not meet. Absolutely shameful."
So far, it's unclear why DeSantis' office edited the language, but it's not the first time he's thrown the LGBTQ community under the bus. This past January, LGBTQ-rights groups were furious when DeSantis signed a workplace anti-discrimination order that excluded protections for LGBTQ people.
This is also far from the first time Republican politicians have conveniently forgotten the LGBTQ community when discussing the Pulse shooting. Scott himself was no hero here either: He infamously waited days to bother mentioning the LGBTQ community after the shooting and didn't wear a rainbow remembrance ribbon until 2018, two years after the attack. (State Rep. Carlos G. Smith, who is himself Hispanic and openly gay, wrote in the Orlando Weekly in 2018 that Scott "turned his back on Orlando after Pulse.") Pulse's Hispanic and LGBTQ communities have said they sometimes felt forgotten in the three years since the tragedy: Smith, for example, has consistently hit Scott for expending far more resources and effort in the wake of the Parkland shootings than he did after 49 mostly Hispanic, LGBTQ victims were killed at Pulse.
Orlando’s LGBTQ community will never be erased. #ForThe49— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) June 12, 2019
Last night, just before DeSantis issued his, ahem, updated tweet, Smith also took a veiled whack at DeSantis.
"Orlando's LGBTQ community will never be erased," he tweeted.
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