Senate Decrees Pulse Nightclub Site National Memorial in Unanimous Vote

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 11, 2021

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to decree the site of Pulse nightclub — the gay nightspot in Orlando, Florida, that was the scene of a mass shooting in 2016 — a national memorial, the Orlando Sentinel has reported.

Per the outlet, the unanimous voice vote took place June 9 "after its sponsor, Sen. Rick Scott, asked that it and its companion bills be approved by unanimous consent in observance of the five years since the mass shooting."

Another Florida senator, Marco Rubio, also sponsored the bill.

"H.R. 49, the U.S. House's version of the bill, and Senate Resolution 265, both honoring the victims of the shooting, also passed the Senate unanimously," the Sentinel noted.

Sen. Scott was the governor of Florida at the time of the June 12, 2016, mass shooting, during which 49 people were killed and 53 more people were wounded in a three-hour rampage carried out by a single gunman.

"I talked to many parents who lost their children, I went to funerals and wakes, and sat in hospital rooms," Scott said on the Senate floor, according to the Sentinel. "As a father and grandfather, it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It was heartbreaking."

Advocates and survivors expressed their gratitude for the unanimous outcome. "This recognition from both the House and Senate means so much to the LGBTQ+ community. #WeWillNotLetHateWin," reads a message on the Pulse's Facebook page, USA Today noted.

A survivor of the shooting, Brandon Wolf — now the media relations manager for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida — also took to social media to express his gratitude. "Thank you, Florida delegation, for recognizing our hallowed ground," he tweeted.

Despite the fortunate outcome, Florida's LGBTQ community was struck a blow mere days before the vote when USA Today reported, "Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a ban on transgender athletes participating in women's sports at the high school and college levels."

Wolf took exception to another act by the current Florida governor, who just a week ago "signed a new state budget that cut funding for Orlando's LGBTQ Community Center and an organization that houses homeless LGBTQ youth," NBC News reported.

"Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting," Wolf recalled in his statement. "Today, almost two years later to date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget."

The bills are expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill last year but, as the Sentinel recalled, that bill did not clear the Senate. Other bills of critical importance to the LGBTQ community remain mired in the Republican-controlled Senate, including the Equality Act, which would address discrimination in housing, credit, education, and other areas of everyday life.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.