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Critics question Rick Scott’s record on LGBTQ issues on second anniversary of Pulse shooting

"He treats us like we don't exist," Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said.
Governor Rick Scott is interviewed by a TV broadcaster on South Orange Avenue, blocks from Pulse nightclub, where a mass shooting left 49 dead and many more wounded, in 2016. On Wednesday, he was headed for Broward County after another mass shooting. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jun. 12, 2018
Updated Jun. 12, 2018

It's been two years to the day since the Pulse nightclub shooting that claimed 49 lives in Orlando. And for two years, Gov. Rick Scott has faced the same question from many in the state's LGBTQ community.

Why didn't the governor do more to reach out to LGBTQ citizens after the massacre?

"You would think that in the aftermath of such a horrific attack that disproportionately impacted and targeted the LGBTQ community that there would be some increased awareness or sensitivity," Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said in a phone interview Monday. "We got nothing. I mean, he treats us like we don't exist."

Scott, for the second year in a row, officially proclaimed June 12, "Pulse Remembrance Day."

"I remain committed to making sure our state never forgets these brave 49 individuals," Scott wrote in the proclamation — which also called for a statewide moment of silence at 9 a.m. Monday.

But some LGBTQ advocates say they want more from the governor. Smith has long criticized Scott for failing to sign an executive order banning discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in the workplace.

And many have noted the difference in the governor's response to the Pulse shooting — after which the governor failed to push for any law regulating firearms — and Scott's legislative push after the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting.

"Because it was the LGBTQ community, maybe it wasn't on the forefront of his list of things to get done," said Stefanie Reynolds, an organizer with Project No Labels, a Tampa Bay-area LGBTQ advocacy group, who helped arrange a Pulse vigil in St. Petersburg Monday night.

A Scott spokeswoman noted that the governor hired several state counterterrorism specialists after the Pulse shooting. (The shooter pledged allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS before he was killed by police.) The Parkland shooting also occurred during a legislative session in which lawmakers were pressured to act by student activists. The Pulse shooting happened months before the 2017 session.

In a statement, Scott said Tuesday should be about remembering the victims.

"The terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub was an evil act of terror against our gay community, our Hispanic community, our entire state and our entire nation. This day should not be about politics, but about respecting the victims and their loved ones. Ann and I join Floridians and Americans across the country in remembering this horrific attack and honoring the 49 innocent lives that were lost on this day two years ago," Scott said.

A Vigil to remember the victims of the shooting will be held in Gulfport at 6:30 p.m at Gulfport Public Library, 5501 28th Ave. S, Gulfport.

The vigil at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando will start at 6 p.m.

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