Congress votes to make Pulse nightclub a national memorial

Three days before the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub bombing in Orlando, Florida, the US Senate unanimously passed legislation designating the gay club site as a national memorial.

The House passed its version of the bill on May 12. The measure now falls to President Joe Biden, who has backed a number of pro-LGBTQ proposals and is expected to enact it, although it is not known when.

Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla., Introduced the Senate bill. Scott was governor at the time of the massacre, which left 49 clubs dead and dozens more injured before gunman Omar Mateen was killed in a shootout with law enforcement after a three-hour siege .

During the measure’s presentation on Wednesday, Scott said talking to parents who have lost children and attending funerals and wake-ups for young victims after the June 12, 2016 attack, “was one of the most important things. tough I have ever had to do, ”according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“[It was] an evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and instill fear in our hearts and minds, ”Scott said later in a statement. “But instead, we came together and supported each other through grief and darkness, to preserve and rebuild.”

While a similar bill passed the House in 2020, it languished in the Senate. Scott’s measure was passed unanimously, enjoying bipartisan support from fellow Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Republican, and California Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat.

In a statement, Rubio said he was “inspired by Orlando’s continued resilience, pride and strength.”

At Twitter, Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the attack, thanked the Florida delegation “for recognizing our sacred land.”

A post from the Pulse nightclub Facebook page also expressed gratitude for passing the bill.

“Unanimous consent is good news as we approach five years of commemoration of the Pulse tragedy,” the statement said. “This recognition from the House and the Senate means a lot to the LGBTQ + community. #WeWillNotLetHateWin ”

The vote came a week after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new state budget that cut funding for the Orlando LGBTQ Community Center and an organization that houses homeless LGBTQ youth.

Wolf, now head of media relations for Equality Florida, said the cuts meant DeSantis “declared war” on the state’s gay community.

“Prior to the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on sacred grounds, a short walk from where I escaped from the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those in. us affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting, ”Wolf said in a statement. “Today, almost two years later, he vetoed mental health services for us. I’ll never forget.”

The designation of Pulse as a memorial is not part of the United States national park system nor does it require federal funding to be used in the creation of a monument.

In 2019, the non-profit onePulse foundation unveiled a design for a museum and monument, created by French architectural firm Coldefy & Associés in collaboration with Orlando-based HHCP Architects.

The monument includes a reflecting pool and a garden with 49 trees surrounding the remains of the disco, where a temporary memorial is currently located.

Half a mile away, on West Kaley Street, the museum would rise “like a budding flower,” the foundation said in a press release, with a rooftop memorial offering views of both the memorial and on what is called the “Pulse District”. south of downtown Orlando.

The first phase of the memorial, a ‘survivors’ march’ with interactive sculptures, will span half a mile of South Orange Avenue and connect the memorial to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, where many of the injured were taken overnight of the attack, Sentinel reported. .

Originally scheduled for 2022, the completion of the museum and memorial has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Sentinel.

In February, singer Ricky Martin signed on as national spokesperson for the foundation’s efforts to raise $ 49 million for the project.

In addition to the National Pulse Memorial and Museum, the money would be used for community outreach, educational programs and to establish 49 scholarships.

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Jerry C. Greiner