WASHINGTON, United States – President Joe Biden on Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Florida, taking the rare step of saying he would designate the club as a national memorial.
“In the coming days, I will sign a bill designating Pulse Nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground,” the US president said in a statement released as he continued a European tour.
On June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire inside the Orlando club, killing 49 people, many of them Latinos, and wounding more than 50 others in what was then the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
The shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, held police at bay for hours until they stormed the building and killed him.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis called the shooting “one of the darkest days in our state’s history” and declared June 12 Pulse Remembrance Day.
Biden’s declaration came a day after two of his senior advisors held a virtual meeting with gay and lesbian leaders to mark the Pulse anniversary and promise action on gay rights and gun violence.
Advisors Susan Rice and Cedric Richmond “discussed the epidemic levels of violence faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color, and the impact of firearms in the crisis of anti-transgender homicides,” the White House said in a separate statement.
They noted Biden’s support for legislation to end discrimination against LGBTQ people as well as his “deep commitment to ending the gun violence public health epidemic in America.”
The two White House statements came during Pride Weekend in Washington. Marchers in a pride parade there were surprised at one point when Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff briefly crossed a rope line to join the march.
“Happy pride! Happy pride, everybody,” she shouted, wearing a “Love is Love” T-shirt, as she waved to the crowd on 13th Street, not far from the White House.
Harris stopped briefly to speak, saying, “There is so much more work to do. And I know we are committed, and we understand the importance of this movement.”