TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Several Tampa Bay LGBTQ+ advocates are outraged over recent actions by Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying he has “declared war” on the gay and transgender community.
“Governor DeSantis is drunk on political ambition,” said Brandon Wolf, a Pulse nightclub survivor who became an advocate after the mass shooting and now works with Equality Florida. “He wants to be president someday, and he has decided that the best way to get there is to hype up the base by declaring war on the LGBTQ people.”
The governor’s office says that assertion is “patently false.”
Wolf and others are upset because they say DeSantis vetoed the only two items in the state budget that specifically funded LGBTQ+ programs.
One item allocated $150,000 for the Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC), which provides mental health funding for Pulse survivors. The other program would have allocated two tranches of funding totaling $750,000 for the Zebra Coalition to build a homeless center for LGBTQ+ youth.
The timing has also enflamed LGBTQ+ advocates with the five-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting just a week away in addition to DeSantis vetoing the programs on the second day of Pride Month. On the first day, he signed a bill banning transgender female athletes from participating in girls’ school sports.
“I’m supposed to spend this week getting ready for what is one of the hardest days of the year for me, every single year,” said Wolf. “And instead, I’m pushing back against a governor who has taken aim at the most vulnerable among us at our most vulnerable time.”
“It is grotesque, it is despicable, and it’s shameful,” said Wolf.
Both of these funding allocations were new in this year’s budget, according to Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. Pushaw told 8 On Your Side there is an additional $212 million in this year’s budget for community-based mental health services.
“Governor DeSantis has been a champion on mental health since day one – and he absolutely supports each and every Floridian who has experienced such horrific trauma, which has a lifelong impact on survivors. To this end, the Florida Leads budget that Governor DeSantis signed [Wednesday] includes a historic increase for community based mental health services, to ensure that all Floridians in need – including LGBTQ Floridians – are able to access vital support and resources.”Christina Pushaw, Press Secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida)
State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, a civil rights attorney and the first openly gay black woman to be elected to the Florida legislature, said it’s especially disheartening for the leaders of these LGBTQ+ organizations to get the funding all the way through the legislative process, only to fail at the final step with a swipe of the governor’s hand.
“Usually these appropriations are carried by Democratic members, and unlike members of the majority party, we have to jump through several hoops to get them appropriated,” said Rayner-Goolsby. “So we already have that, and then we’re also trying to express the humanity of the people who need this money.”