Just in time for Pride and on the heels of signing the state’s discriminatory ban on trans girls and women who wish to play sports into law, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has once again shown how much he cares about LGBT people (spoiler alert: not a lot). On Wednesday, DeSantis vetoed almost a million dollars in funding for LGBT residents of his state from the state’s budget, including $150,000 earmarked for mental health services for survivors of the Pulse massacre.
In a particularly cruel twist, DeSantis’s veto came just days before the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub.
Given that the state’s budget is a record $100 billion this year, $150,000 doesn’t even count as a drop in the bucket. But it is a lot of money for the LGBT community center that is serving the survivors of the mass shooting. More, via the Washington Post:
But staff at the LGBT+ Center Orlando, which lost the $150,000 in state funding, said the governor’s veto would definitely hurt Pulse survivors and other LGBT residents in the area.
Joél Morales, the Center Orlando’s director of operations, said that earlier this year, the center took over a counseling services program offered to Pulse survivors and the families of those killed. A federal grant had previously paid for similar services in the state, but it ended in 2019. Without state funding, the center can’t afford to keep running the program, which currently serves 68 families and survivors.
“We only requested $150,000, which is the bare minimum to just sustain the program as it is,” Morales told The Post.
Morales added, “It was a slap in the face. I bawled just because of all the hard work our community is doing and the healing that still needs to be done.” While DeSantis’s office claims that this funding cut won’t impact Pulse survivors, pointing to an overall increase in funding for mental health services in the budget, there’s no guarantee that any of that funding will go to this specific program. As one survivor, Brandon Wolf, told the Post, “How much of it is going to these survivors? They have not been able to answer that question. It’s shameful.”
The counseling program wasn’t the only program DeSantis decided to gut. He also vetoed $750,000 for the Zebra Coalition, an Orlando-based group that is building housing for homeless LGBT youth. As the Zebra Coalition wrote in a statement, much of the funding would have gone to a project to turn a former motel into housing for 35 young people. “The veto creates significant obstacles toward our goal to ensure that all LGBTQ+ youth have a safe place to call home,” the group’s executive director wrote.
Congrats to DeSantis for deciding Pride was the perfect time to take a big dump on survivors of a mass shooting and on homeless queer youth.