Florida lawmakers proposed a bill on Monday that would make Pulse nightclub a national memorial, days before the third anniversary of the mass shooting at the Orlando venue.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings introduced legislation that would designate the now-closed Pulse in Orange County as a federal landmark to honor the 49 people killed in the deadliest act of violence against LGBTQ people in recent U.S. history.
“The memorial will serve as a reminder of the remarkable way our community came together to heal and overcome hate,” Soto said Monday to a crowd in front of Pulse’s interim memorial. “We recognize the need to preserve LGBTQ historic sites because of cases like the Matthew Shepard Memorial, which have been deliberately destroyed over time without these protections. Let the Pulse Memorial become a symbol of hope, love and light.”
June 12 marks three years since Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others at Pulse during the gay nightclub’s Latin night. Police fatally shot Mateen, and his widow Noor Salman was found not guilty of aiding in the attack.
“The Pulse tragedy shook our community to its core and forever changed us,” Murphy said in a statement. “It’s important we remember the love that the 49 victims and their loved ones brought into this world, which will always be stronger than the hate that stole their lives on that day.”
Soto said the proposed legislation would classify the memorial as part of the National Park System while allowing the onePULSE Foundation to retain control of the memorial’s construction. The foundation, created by former Pulse owner Barbara Poma, unveiled the interim memorial last year. It includes interactive wall exhibits, lighted benches and a steel fence where visitors can leave messages and mementos.
The foundation is working to raise $50 million for the design, construction and maintenance for the permanent memorial and a museum, as well as 49 endowed scholarship funds. Poma told WFTV9 that the foundation’s raised $14 million so far for construction, most of which the county pledged, though a national memorial designation would make the project eligible to receive more in federal funding. OnePULSE has already selected finalist teams of architects and artists to construct the monument, and it will decide on winners in October, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Poma announced plans in 2017 for a memorial and museum, though a January 2018 survey found that Orlando residents were almost evenly divided over how to properly memorialize the tragedy. The biggest source of the debate appeared to be whether to keep the nightclub building structure, though residents also said they’d prefer an emphasis on the 49 victims rather than references to the shooter, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Lawmakers hope to pass the bill by June 2020, while the memorial and museum are expected to open in 2022.