Congress Votes to Designate Pulse as a National Memorial

After efforts fell flat last year, both houses of Congress moved to designate Pulse as a national memorial.
REUTERS/Scott Audette

After the House of Representatives took action last month, the US Senate voted to designate the Pulse nightclub as a national memorial in honor of the victims of the fatal shooting in 2016.

Both chambers of Congress have now voted to memorialize the site of a June 2016 massacre that killed 49 people and injured dozens of others after a gunman opened fire during a Latinx night at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The legislation in the upper chamber, led by Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida — who previously served as governor — passed unanimously in the Senate on June 10, while Congressmember Darren Soto of Florida carried the bill through the House last month. The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Democrat Alex Padilla of California and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. It now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.

In a statement, Scott reflected on the importance of paying homage to the victims lost in the attack.

 “Nearly five years ago, our state, nation, the City of Orlando, and Hispanic and LGBTQ communities were attacked, and 49 innocent and beautiful lives were lost,” Scott said in a written statement on June 9. “It was an unspeakable tragedy. An evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds. But instead, we came together, and supported each other through heartbreak and darkness, to preserve and rebuild.”

Efforts to designate the site as a memorial cleared the House of Representatives last year, but went nowhere in the Senate. Speaking on the House floor last June, out gay Rhode Island Congressmember David Cicilline said, “It is critical that we designate this memorial today so that our country never forgets those who were list.”

The onePULSE Foundation, a non-profit building memorials in honor of the victims of the attack, applauded the backing of the venue as a national memorial.

“We are thrilled that the US Senate passed the bill designating Pulse nightclub as a national memorial,” Pulse Orlando wrote in a statement on Facebook. A very special thank you to Senators Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, and Alex Padilla for introducing the bill in the Senate. The unanimous consent is such welcome news as we are set to mark the five-year remembrance of the Pulse tragedy. This recognition from both the House and Senate means so much to the LGBTQ+ community.”

In February, the onePULSE Foundation tapped out gay Puerto Rican singer and songwriter Ricky Martin as a national spokesperson to help boost fundraising efforts and raise awareness of the National Pulse Memorial and Museum. According to the organization’s press release, the museum would include a “spiraling, open-air” design, vertical gardens, and 49 trees planted in tribute to the victims. It is scheduled to open in 2022.

Amid Congress’ push to memorialize the site of Pulse, LGBTQ gun control advocates in New York are hitting the ground to remember the victims during  the anniversary of the shooting. Gays Against Guns is leading an action on June 12 that will begin at 7 p.m. on Christopher Street Piers and conclude in front of the historic Stonewall Inn.

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