Monday, June 12, will be one year since the mass shooting of 49 people at the popular Pulse LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando.
Less than 48 hours after that horrific night, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, County Administrator Mike Merrill, and a handful of Hillsborough County sheriff deputies participated in an event in Ybor City honoring the victims.
At their next meeting, Commissioners supported Beckner’s motion to raise an LGBT Pride flag at the County Center for the remainder of June, also in honor of the victims.
But a subsequent proposal to designate June as LGBT Pride and History Month, as well as having Hillsborough commemorate the June 12 anniversary in remembrance of the victims, died ignominiously when it failed to pick up a second vote.
“None of you wanted to even discuss the matter,” Tampa resident Terence Wolfe told the Board of Commissioners earlier this week. “None of you wanted to remember. Perhaps you were asked to do something that was too hard for you to do.”
Beckner says it’s not too late for the county to still go ahead and recognize the day.
“I think it’s important that we never forget,” he said Wednesday, hours after Wolfe spoke. ” We should never forget that there’s bigotry, hate and intolerance in our community,” adding that those sentiments weren’t directly exclusively to the LGBT community, referring to anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents that have taken place around the nation this year.
“The worst events can bring out the best in people,” says Nadine Smith, CEO with Equality Florida. “All around Orlando, Florida, the nation and the world, elected leaders and everyday citizens stood with the survivors and the families of those killed in a global display of unity and humanity. I hope Hillsborough County commissioners will join in this one-year commemoration of a horror that unfolded just up the road.”
Commissioner Victor Crist says he’s never had a problem with recognizing the loss of life on that day, but he and his colleagues didn’t want to set a precedent of having a reoccurring automatic recognition, “because we don’t do that for anything.”
“If we start making it automatic, it sets a precedence — not for this, but for everything else to come,” Crist said. “I think that’s what the concern was.”
“I think it got misconstrued,” Crist adds. “Because it was a nightclub or the gay community, or whatever, that wasn’t the issue. We didn’t want to set a precedence for an automatic lever because so many groups and people and incidences that will come forward and want the same thing.”
Term-limited from the commission last year, Beckner just started his new gig as director of the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board. As the first openly gay community member elected in the county, he believes the tragic events of June 12 should never be forgotten.
“It was the gay community’s 9/11,” he says.