In revealing plans to commemorate June 12 as a day of remembrance for the lives lost in the massacre at Pulse nightclub, two of Orlando’s top elected officials failed to acknowledge the LGBT community.
Neither Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer nor Orange Mayor Teresa Jacobs explicitly mentioned the queer community when announcing “Orlando United Day,” an omission that didn’t go unnoticed by Orlando city Commissioner Patty Sheehan.
“If you’re going to be inclusive, you have to talk about everyone who was impacted. That’s not happening,” Sheehan said of the horrific mass shooting that left 49 dead. “Frankly, I was afraid this was going to happen. I didn’t want it to be about the politicians. I wanted it to be about the people who were impacted.”
Dyer defended his commitment to the LGBT community in a statement Wednesday, but didn’t apologize for not addressing the community directly in his original speech.
“Our commitment to those who were directly impacted by the loss of loved ones, those who survived the attack, those who were there that night and every single person who felt the pain and loss of this tragedy is unwavering,” he said.
Jacobs also issued a statement saying any offense the announcement caused was unintended.
“If in the absence of specific mention of our cherished LGBTQ and Hispanic populations in the video announcement for the Orlando United Day yesterday, the message was construed as insensitive or dismissive, I would certainly like to underscore that in no way was that the intention,” she said. “I regret if anyone experienced that reaction.”
Sheehan (above), the city’s first openly gay elected official, said that intended or not, it’s all too common for people to overlook the effect of a tragedy like Pulse on the minority groups that were directly targeted.
“It begins with omitting them and trying to make them go away,” she remarked. “We we will not be silenced. We will not be made to go away.”
The commissioner was not alone in her criticism. After the city posted the video to its Facebook page, several people expressed concern over the omission and requested that it be revised.
In the video, the politicians expressed solidarity in general terms.
“Our community will never forget the tragedy of Pulse or the grief of those who lost loved ones,” said Dyer. “From heartbroken family and friends to survivors putting shattered lives back together, our entire community stands with you.”
Added Jacobs: “As we prepare for the anniversary of Pulse, the world is working to honor and remember the lives we lost. Through a day of love and kindness dedicated to the legacy of those who perished, we will continue to cherish their memories.”
The schedule released Monday showed Orlando United Day’s public events and exhibitions will stretch from 10 a.m. June 12 to midnight, at sites including Pulse, the Lake Eola Park Amphitheater and the Orange County Regional History Center.