It has been two years since Orlando changed forever. Two years since 49 beautiful angels were stolen from their families, friends and loved ones after a radical American homophobe with an assault rifle opened fire in what was once a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community and others.
Two years later, the wounds haven't fully healed as many survivors continue multiple surgeries and rehabilitation. June 12, 2016, was the darkest day in our city's history and they've only just begun the long journey to rebuild their lives.
After the tragedy at Pulse nightclub, our community demonstrated incredible strength and unity. We painted our city rainbow colors to show the world that love conquers hate. The world responded with the same. Cities around the country and across the world lit up with rainbow colors in solidarity with Orlando.
Our people found power in their pain. Survivors and families of victims rallied together to strengthen our gun laws and prevent this from happening again to others. They asked Gov. Rick Scott to take executive action and send a clear message that our state won't tolerate bigotry or discrimination against anyone, including LGBTQ people. The governor's office signaled they would. Our community made desperate pleas for mental health funding to provide critical access to long-term counseling and treatment for those impacted who were mostly uninsured or underinsured.
Six hundred and twelve days passed between Pulse and Parkland while Gov. Scott did nothing to prevent gun violence. The promise to take executive action and protect LGBTQ state workers from discrimination became a broken one. His next budget signing slashed mental health funding statewide by $11 million – $5 million in cuts to Central Florida alone. Taxpayer funds were not made available for the Pulse memorial. When the media spotlight faded from Orlando, Rick Scott pushed our community back into the closet and disappeared.
Since then, I committed to fight for the 49 and #HonorThemWithAction. Along with Sen. Linda Stewart, I sponsored legislation banning military-style assault weapons like the Sig Sauer MCX used at Pulse. After what was the worst mass shooting in modern American history, our bill was not given a single hearing. Not even after Las Vegas. Or Sutherland Springs. Or Parkland.
On Feb. 14, 2018, 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Scott's response was dramatically different. Desperate to save face after delivering a keynote address at the NRA's 2017 convention, he signed SB 7026. It included modest gun safety provisions (no assault weapons ban), allowed certain teachers and faculty to carry guns, increased mental health spending in schools, and made $1 million in taxpayer funds available for the Parkland memorial.
The staggering list of disparities in the governor's response to Pulse and Parkland can't be denied and won't be forgotten. It's been two years since our 49 angels had their voices silenced, but we #HonorThemWithAction today by not silencing our own.
We #HonorThemWithAction by registering to vote.
We #HonorThemWithAction by rejecting NRA influence.
We #HonorThemWithAction by voting NO on Rick Scott this November.