On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the deadly attack remaining one the bloodiest moment in modern LGBTQI+ history.

Now, five years on, a program that provides mental-health services to survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting has been axed among $900,000 in funding cuts made to programs that serve LGBTQI communities in Central Florida.

The project, which has been axed was the Orlando United Assistance Centre at LGBT+ Centre Orlando, with state budget documents describing the program as a one-stop shop for Pulse survivors and family members, offering everything from mental-health counselling services to employment assistance.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Anti-LGBTQI+ Decisions

The decision, handed down by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, formed part of an extensive list of hometown projects the governor eliminated before approving a new $100 billion state budget. On Tuesday, DeSantis had also signed into law a ban on transgender girls preventing them from participating in girls’ and women’s high-school and college sports teams.

These attacks have rightly left many both hurt and angered, with openly gay state Rep and Orlando Democrat Carlos G Smith, saying “Timing matters. What message are LGBT people meant to receive from Gov. DeSantis other than that this is an insult to them?”

“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.”

Smith went on to say in an interview  with The News Service of Florida that he remembered having “high hopes” for DeSantis believing that he would be progressive on LGBTQI+ issues. But Smith said he’s been left disappointed in the governor ever since.

Visit To Pulse Nightclub

In 2019, DeSantis visited attended a third-anniversary remembrance ceremony and pledged his support to secure $1 million for a memorial, which he subsequently helped accomplish. It now appears that his attendance at this event was no more than a well-orchestrated publicity stunt, designed to attract support from LGBTQI+ voters.

“The Pulse memorial is a memorial. This is not. This is mental health for the survivors and family, which is a whole lot more important,” Smith added, explain also that this now the second year that DeSantis has voted against funding of mental health services for survivors of the Pulse Night Club Massacre.

“Here’s @GovRonDeSantis in 2019, standing on hallowed ground, promising me that he would always support those of us impacted by the Pulse nightclub shooting. Today, he vetoed mental health services for us. I will never forget,” Political activist and Pulse nightclub survivor Brandon Wolf tweeted last week.

Funding For Other LGBTQI+ Projects Cut

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat whose district includes the Pulse site and who had also requested money for the project refused to hold back in her appraisal of DeSantis, saying, “The governor is a homophobe and a transphobe who doesn’t actually care about Floridians who are different from him.”

DeSantis rejected $10,364,565 in health and human-services projects, according to a News Service analysis.  These also included cuts to the Zebra Coalition- a group of 52 organisations in Central Florida that work to reduce and prevent homelessness among young LGBTQ people, and its request for help in renovating bridge housing for 35 homeless LGBTQ youths ages 13 to 24.

Yet in an attempt to spin the narrative to his own advantage, a spokesperson for DeSantis said via a statement that  the budget includes “an additional $212,274,073 in community-based mental health funding for the next fiscal year, and services will continue to be provided.”

“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,” the statement read.

“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,” the statement added.


If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.




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