Florida Gov. Rick Scott invoked the Pulse massacre in his annual State of the State address Tuesday but never used the terms "LGBT," "LGBTQ" or "Latinx" to describe victims of the mass shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. Equality Florida quickly called out the oversight.
"While we are glad the governor spotlighted the Pulse tragedy, we are deeply disappointed that when talking about the worst anti-LGBTQ attack in our nation's history, our governor failed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way," said Equality Florida public policy director Hannah Willard in a statement. "Governor Scott spoke about the horror our state experienced in the wake of the attack, the heroism of Orlando's first responders, and the pain of families who lost loved ones. What we didn't hear was any mention of the LGBTQ community targeted in this murderous rampage, which occurred on Latin night."
Scott, a close ally of President Trump, is the likely Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in next year's U.S. Senate race. The governor described the attack as terrorism, erasing the queer or racial implications.
Scott recalled the days in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting, which he said would "always be with me." But he focused concern on the threat of terrorism, labeling shooter Omar Mateen, who was killed by law enforcement at the scene, a "terrorist inspired by ISIS." He also proposed budgeting $5.8 billion for counterterrorism efforts, citing the attack. Scott never referenced the attack as a hate crime or an assault on the LGBT or Latinx community. He appeared to acknowledge at least one same-sex relationship, referencing a recovering victim who had been protected for a time from news of his partner's death.
Willard suggested that rather than counterterrorism funding, the true way to honor victims would be to pass legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. "We urge Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature to honor those killed in Orlando with action by ensuring that LGBTQ Floridians are treated fairly and equally under the laws of our state," she wrote. "The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (HB 623/SB 666), a bipartisan bill that already has 38 Republican and Democrat cosponsors in the House and Senate, would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, ensuring that all LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces."
Scott's full speech can be found online. The Pulse remarks from the State of the State address are below:
"I've been forever changed by all of the incredible people I have met this past year during some of our state's most challenging times. Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people. This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.
"The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me. I talked to many parents who lost their children. I remember sitting with one mom who recounted her son's final 48 hours on earth and how he died a hero because he was trying to save a friend's life. I met with an injured victim whose TV was turned off in his hospital room. His family needed to wait to tell him that his partner had been killed and did not want him to find out from the news and I went to wakes and funerals to mourn with families as they said their final good-byes. The hardest thing I have ever had to do as Governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child, and I truly cannot imagine the grief of losing a child.
"Amid the horror and terror of that night, we also saw what bravery and heroism looks like. We saw so many first responders rush to the scene. First responders like SWAT team member Officer Michael Napolitano with the Orlando Police Department. Officer Napolitano, please stand.
"Without fear or hesitation, Officer Napolitano and his fellow SWAT members confronted the terrorist and during the stand-off, his Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet which saved his life. Officer Napolitano, we are proud to call you a Floridian. Thank you for your courage to serve in the face of evil, and thank you for fighting for Florida families.
"I would like to also welcome Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Both helped respond to the terrorist attack at Pulse. Chief Mina and Sheriff Demings, you and your team of brave law enforcement officers have kept families safe and secure. On behalf of all Florida families, please tell your officers and deputies that we are proud of them and job well done!
"In order to keep fighting to support public safety in our state, we have to ensure Florida's law enforcement officers have the resources they need to curb senseless violence and crime. That is why I have recommended nearly $6 million for counterterrorism efforts this year."