The One Thing Missing From These Condolences to Orlando

June 14th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Florida politicians, like the rest of the country, offered condolences and support for Orlando after a gunman shot and killed 49 people in a gay nightclub on Sunday.

They say they are standing with the victims in this time of great tragedy and loss. However, when asked on CNN what he would do to protect that gay community in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott didn't mention the word "gay" or talk about the LGBT community specifically, members of which the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, targeted and killed. Even before the shooting, LGBT Floridians were the most likely to be targeted for a hate crime based on the population's demographics, according to Equality Florida Action. But instead of acknowledging the problem head on, Scott spoke in general terms about all Floridians.

"We have really good law enforcement in our state and when something like this happens one of the first things you do, on top of dealing with the issue you have at hand, is say 'ok who else could this impact and what can we do to make sure that does not happen again?'," said Scott on the phone with CNN.

The state of Florida and its politicians, including Scott, have a terrible history with gay rights legislation, and people didn't forget.

Singer Clay Aiken pointed out in a powerful tweet that a survivor of the shooting could still be fired at work if the tragedy outed him as gay.

Florida, like many other states, does not have legal protections for employees based on sexual orientation or gender expression.

Scott was a champion of Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, and in March he signed a religious freedom law that gave clergy the right to deny officiating same-sex marriages, according to WFOR-TV, a CBS Miami affiliate.

What's strange about the religious freedom law is that clergy already had that right, which led many to believe the law was passed symbolically to show disapproval for the Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality decision. “It’s totally unnecessary and it’s also motivated by a disapproval of same-sex couples,” Equality Florida's Carlos Guillermo Smith told WFOR-TV. “We had to go through this divisive exercise in political posturing that was a giant waste of time.”

A few weeks later, a federal judge demanded that the state of Florida honor the Supreme Court ruling. Resulting from a lawsuit against the state, Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled in a summary judgment that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, even though same-sex marriage bans had already been struck down nationwide the previous summer.

“After the United States Supreme Court issued [its ruling], one might have expected immediate, unequivocal acceptance,” Hinkle wrote. “Not so for the State of Florida.”

The state wasn't administering benefits for state employees the same way it administered the benefits to married heterosexual couples.

“Given the state defendants’ history of resistance to earlier orders, the breadth of state employment and vital-records requirements, and the state defendants’ insistence that state provisions remain in force until explicitly struck down, it cannot be said that the state defendants have unambiguously terminated their illegal practices,” Hinkle wrote in his judgment.

Former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has said repeatedly that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and publicly disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality.

“You can live anywhere you want. I just believe marriage is between one man and one woman," the Florida senator said to a gay man in New Hampshire, according to MSNBC.

Former Florida governor and former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush also has a long history of opposition to gay marriage. In 2004, Bush supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman. During his presidential campaign, he softened his position to a state's rights argument.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” Bush said. “I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.”

The creator of Son of Baldwin, an online community for social justice, told ATTN: that this political incongruity on gay issues is unacceptable.

Robert Jones Jr., 45, is a writer with more than 70,000 followers on Facebook and 28,000 followers on Twitter. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Gawker, and The Grio.

He said that he hasn't forgotten the Florida governor's past legislation against gay rights.

"Maya Angelou said, 'When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.' She is absolutely correct," Jones said. "Rick Scott has shown us who he was many times over. I believe him. Which is why I know that he is an enemy to queer folks and always will be."

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