Pulse nightclub national memorial bill goes to President Biden

Pulse Nightclub National Memorial

This memorial outside the site of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, memorializes the 49 people who were killed. The massacre was the worst attack on LGBTQ people in U.S. history. Photo: Charlie Gage for Q Voice News.

UPDATE: President Joe Biden signed the bill designating Pulse nightclub a national monument on June 25.

A bill designating Pulse nightclub a national monument is on it’s way to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law, though it’s unclear when.

Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub, where 49 people, predominantly Black and Latino, were fatally shot, and 53 were wounded.

The U.S. Senate passed the bill on Thursday.

The House passed its version of the bill May 12.

While a similar bill passed the House in 2020, it languished in the Senate because neither of Florida’s senators, including Mark Rubio, supported the bill. This year, Rubio changed his mind, but it’s unclear why he did.

Pulse nightclub 1 year later, survivor wants to change hearts, minds

National designation

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

Brandon Wolf, a Pulse survivor and media relations manager for Equality Florida, said the cuts meant DeSantis “has declared war” on the state’s gay community.

“Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting,” Wolf said in a statement. “Today, almost two years later to date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”

Most national memorials are owned and run by the U.S. National Park Service, but some are not, allowing them to raise money through public or private grants and to be independently operated.

The Pulse nightclub national memorial bill would leave full control over it to the nonprofit onePulse Foundation.

The national designation also would not require any federal funds.

Pulse’s designation as a memorial does not make it part of the U.S. National Park System or require federal funding to be used in creating any monument.

Ricky Martin to help honor Pulse nightclub shooting victims

Pulse museum, monument design

In 2019, onePulse Foundation unveiled a design for a museum and monument to be built around the nightclub site.

The monument would incorporate a reflecting pool and a garden with 49 trees ringing the site of the nightclub. 

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

The first phase of the memorial, a “Survivors Walk” featuring interactive sculptures, will span a half-mile of South Orange Avenue and connect the memorial to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where many wounded were taken the night of the attack.

Initially set for 2022, completion of the museum and memorial has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. An interim memorial stands at the site.

In February,  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 legacy scholarships.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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