Story at a glance
- During Pride Month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis cut mental health services dedicated to LGBTQ+ Floridians.
- This comes on the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
- Spokespeople for DeSantis say he is an advocate for mental health.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made controversial budget cuts on Wednesday, notably removing $900,000 in funding for state programs geared toward serving the LGBTQ+ population, including one that provides mental health programs to survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting from 2016.
This comes on the second day of Pride Month and the upcoming fifth anniversary of the shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub, on June 12. DeSantis declared June 12 Pulse Remembrance Day in honor of the 49 people who lost their lives in the shooting.
Local outlets report that the budget cuts were made prior to DeSantis’s approval of the $100 billion state budget.
Among the specific programs that suffered from budget cuts were a $150,000 initiative directed to the Orlando United Assistance Center at LGBT+ Center Orlando. Within that $150,000, funds would have gone to mental health and counseling services for survivors of the Pulse shooting.
Other programs include the Zebra Coalition, a youth housing project, which was slated to get $750,000 in funding. The coalition aims to convert a part of an unused hotel into housing for LGBTQ+ youth.
“Timing matters. What message are LGBT people meant to receive from Gov. DeSantis other than that this is an insult to them?” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D), according to ABC7. “The Orlando community right now is bracing for the five-year remembrance, and for Gov. DeSantis to veto funding for Pulse survivors and families is just cruel.”
DeSantis received criticism for signing a bill last week that prohibits trans girls and women from participating in high school and college athletics.
Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said that the amended state budget does include more than $212 million in community mental health services funding.
“Governor DeSantis has been a champion on mental health since day one -- and he absolutely supports every Floridian who has experienced such horrific trauma, which has a lifelong impact on survivors,” Pushaw said. “To this end, the new budget ensures that Floridians in need -- including LGBTQ Floridians -- will continue to have access to vital support and the mental health resources they need to survive and thrive.”
“Let’s be clear about what this is: Governor DeSantis has declared war on Florida’s LGBTQ community,” Equality Florida Media Relations Manager Brandon Wolf stated.
DeSantis’s legislation is particularly ill-timed with June being Pride month, a time dedicated to celebrating and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.