Florida Gov. Rick Scott always seems to remember the phrases "radical Islam" and "terrorism" when describing the June 12 attack where a gunman killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub, but somehow, he always tends to drop the "gay" out of Pulse.
Scott is coming under fire from Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBTQ advocacy group, for failing to mention the LGBTQ and Latinx community during his remarks about the massacre at his annual State of the State address. In his speech to the Florida Legislature on Tuesday, Scott highlighted the tragedy, saying:
"Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016, when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people. This was a horrible terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.
The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me. I talked to many parents who lost their children. I remember sitting with one mom who recounted her son's last 48 hours on earth and how he died a hero because he was trying to save a friend's life. I met with an injured victim whose TV was turned off in his hospital room. His family needed to wait to tell him that his partner had been killed and did not want him to find out from the news and I went to wakes and funerals to mourn with families as they said their final good-byes. The hardest thing I have ever had to do as Governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child, and I truly cannot imagine the grief of losing a child or a grandchild."
Whether you want to call it terrorism or debate the gunman's motives, you have to be pretty obtuse to not only ignore that Pulse was a gay nightclub but also fail to mention the majority of the victims were LGBTQ. This isn't the first time Scott has been called out for doing this. It took him two days
after the Pulse attack to finally acknowledge the LGBTQ community on Twitter. Scott did, however, honor first responders at the crime scene during his speech, like Orlando Police Officer Michael Napolitano, a SWAT team member whose Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet from hitting him. Scott also honored OPD Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who were present for his speech.
"Thank you for your courage to serve in the face of evil, and thank you for fighting for Florida families," Scott told law enforcement officials.
Hannah Willard, the public policy director for Equality Florida, says in a statement that while Scott spoke about the horror Florida experienced in the wake of the attack, the heroism of Orlando’s first responders, and the pain of families who lost loved ones, he didn't mention "the LGBTQ community targeted in this murderous rampage which occurred on Latin night."
"In order to truly honor the 49 people killed, the 53 injured, and the countless traumatized at Pulse, our elected leaders must take action to uproot the hatred and bigotry that fueled this attack," Willard says in a statement. "[Scott] spoke glowingly about hoping that all children, no matter where they're from, will be able to have their chance at the American dream here in Florida. We share that hope. But we know that we must also address the prejudice against LGBTQ people that is still alive and well in our state."
Willard called on Scott and the Florida Legislature to honor the victims killed in Orlando by passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida's anti-discrimination laws.
"Unfortunately, under Florida law it remains legal to fire LGBTQ people, evict us from our homes, and deny us service at a public business just because of who we are," she says. "When our own state government fails to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, it sends a message that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is acceptable and it plants the seeds for future hate violence against us."