The site of Orlando, FL’s Pulse nightclub, the sight of the deadliest mass shooting of LGBTQ people in American history, will be designated as a national memorial after Congress passed the measure days ahead of the fifth anniversary of the shooting.
The U.S. Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to pass the bill, co-sponsored by California Senator Alex Padilla and Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, sending it on to President Joe Biden’s desk. The vote came one month after the House of Representatives passed the same bill. Biden is expected to sign it into law.
“Three days before the 5 year remembrance, the Senate has passed a bill designating Pulse as a national memorial site. Thank you, Florida delegation, for recognizing our hallowed ground,” said Pulse survivor and Equality Florida media relations manager Brandon Wolf.
49 people lost their lives when a lone gunman opened fire during the popular gay nightclub’s Latin Night on June 12, 2016. More than 50 others were injured. Scott was Florida’s governor at the time and reflected on the traumatic event while introducing the bill on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“[It was] an evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds … but instead, we came together, and supported each other through heartbreak and darkness, to preserve and rebuild,” Scott said in a statement.
Rep. Darren Soto, a co-sponsor of the House bill, expressed honor at the bill’s passing. “I am honored that my bill with Rep. Stephanie Murphy & Rep. Val Demings for a #PulseNationalMemorial passed the house & thank Sen. Rick Scott & the senate for taking action #ForThe49,” said Soto. Demmings stated “The memorial will serve as a national symbol of hope, love, and unity.”
The site currently hosts an informal memorial but Pulse owner Barbara Poma established the onePulse Foundation in an effort to build a National Pulse Memorial & Museum. The organization thanked Padilla, Scott and Rubio in a statement on Facebook. “We are thrilled that the U.S. Senate passed the bill designating Pulse nightclub as a national memorial,” the statement read. “This recognition from both the House and Senate means so much to the LGBTQ+ community.”
The designation is an important step in recognizing one of the most traumatic events for LGBTQ Americans, but it does come with some caveats. The National Pulse Memorial will not be part of the National Park System, therefore it won’t “require or permit Federal funds to be expended for any purpose related to that national memorial.”
The Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum (CCAPM), a group representing victims and family members of victims of the Pulse shooting, applauded news that federal funds will not be disbursed to onePulse Foundation as part of the site’s memorialization. “CCAPM have been critical of onePulse Foundation and Poma in the years since the shooting, criticizing her for not selling the property to the City of Orlando as a way for her to profit off of the memories of the 49 lives lost.
CCAPM instead advocates for the establishment of “a public memorial park that does not seek to capitalize on the mass shooting in any way” as a means of memorializing the tragedy. The organization has also called on onePulse Foundation to use the funds it raises to better support and care for Pulse survivors. That financial support is drastically needed as Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $150,000 in funding slated to provide counseling services for Pulse Survivors last week.
That doesn’t take away from the significance of the designation and what the site has come to represent in the five years since the shooting. “Though the Orlando community will never stop grieving our 49 angels lost and 54 injured, this memorial will serve as a reminder of our commitment to keep their memories, spirits, and stories alive,” Padilla told The Advocate. “It is also our hope that it will be a national and international symbol of our ability to come together and persevere in the face of tragedy
Pulse Nightclub: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Ebyabe/Creative Commons