Whether or Not Pulse Was a Hate Crime, Hate Still Lives in Florida

nadine smith

On June 12, 2016, Orlando experienced the unimaginable when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub, leaving 49 people dead, dozens injured, and countless traumatized.

Two years later, speculation has returned on whether this senseless violence occurred at Pulse because it was a gay nightclub. Was it randomly selected? The shooter had gone to other places, including a different nightclub, and chose not to shoot. The description of Pulse on his search likely identified it as a gay bar. He even asked the security guard a question that would have left no doubt: “Where are all the women?”

Was he a homophobe or a self-loathing gay man? Even though investigators debunked the idea that the killer was a regular at the nightclub with a secret Grindr account, the media ran with it. But his father did describe him as homophobic and said he became enraged after seeing two men kissing each other on a sidewalk.

Two years later, this is what truly matters: The Pulse massacre fits the same pattern of mass shootings across the country. Angry men — and it is almost exclusively radicalized, bigoted white men — with easy access to weapons capable of mass murder keep killing people. LGBTQ people are disproportionately the victims of hate violence, including gun violence.

Two years after Pulse what is clear is the lack of action by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature. Parkland students have noted publicly the that our elected leaders were negligent when LGBTQ people were the victims.

Today, the majority of Floridians, including nearly 80 percent of conservatives, say Rick Scott should keep his post-Pulse promise and sign an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These protections exist at the local level, covering 60 percent of the state’s 20 million residents, but Florida has no statewide LGBTQ protections.

This broken promise will dog Scott as he runs for office as the National Rifle Association’s favorite governor — in a state that's been the site of two of the worst mass shootings in the country: Parkland and Pulse.

Two years later, the damage remains. The survivors are still struggling. And the hostility toward LGBTQ people that makes us disproportionately the victims of hate violence is being exacerbated from the highest office. The anti-Hispanic rhetoric from the White House also compounds the pain. The massacre at Pulse happened on Latin Night in the middle of Pride Month, and 90 percent of the 49 killed were Hispanic; nearly half were from Puerto Rico.

We encourage people across the country to renew their commitment to the victims of Pulse with #HonorThemWithAction. To create real and lasting change, people must spend less time thinking about the shooter and more time holding our elected leaders accountable for taking action to prevent those who seek to do us harm from accessing weapons of mass slaughter.

Join the HonorThemWithAction.org and commemorate the two-year mark of the Pulse tragedy by using the hashtag #HonorThemWithAction on social media to share how you are working in your community to make it a safer, more inclusive place for all.

NADINE SMITH is the executive director of Equality Florida

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