Florida governor Rick DeSantis stripped LGBTQ+ programs from the state budget on Wednesday, one day after signing a bill to ban trans women and girls from competing on scholastic athletic teams aligned with their gender identity.
Among the funds that were cut were those earmarked for providing mental health support for survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre, for housing LGBTQ+ homeless youth, and for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center, the Washington Blade reports.
DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said in a statement that funding for mental health support for Pulse survivors isn’t going away, although funds would no longer be specifically earmarked for them. “The Florida Leads budget that the governor signed today provides a historic increase in funding for community-based mental health services, so help will continue to be provided and encouraged for all who need it, including survivors of the Pulse nightclub tragedy,” she said.
LGBTQ+ advocates are criticizing the move, however. Equality Florida issued a statement yesterday that was critical of the budget cuts, and of Governor DeSantis. “Let’s be clear on this: Governor DeSantis has declared war on Florida’s LGBTQ community,” said Media Relations Manager Brandon Wolf, who is also a Pulse survivor. “Before the 2019 Remembrance Ceremony, Governor DeSantis stood on the hallowed ground, steps from where I escaped the building in 2016, and promised me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, almost two years later to date, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget.”
Representatives from the LGBT+ Center Orlando and Zebra Coalition, a network of groups that provide support for LGBTQ+ youth, also criticized the governor’s decision in the statement, saying that now they will have to find new financial lifelines for support.
“This money would have helped LGBTQ+ youth facing homelessness, bullying, isolation from their families, physical and sexual abuse, and drug abuse,” said Zebra Coalition’s Executive Director Heather Wilkie. “We were planning to expand our housing capacity from 11 to 35 beds for homeless youth and were honored for the support of so many of our state legislators. Now we’re unsure where the money will come from.”