(KEY WEST, FL) New Jersey is blue. Florida is red. For the first time in New Jersey history, Governor Phil Murphy, earlier this week, ordered the Pride flag raised at the governor’s mansion for the remainder of Pride Month. In sharp contrast, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called for drastic cuts in funding for several LGBTQ programs—including one for mental health services for survivors of one of Florida’s worst mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando
in June 2016.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis slashed about $900,000 from the Florida state budget—funds targeted LGBTQ initiatives in Central Florida. Included on the chopping block was more than $150,000 in funding for mental health and counseling services for victims, families, and survivors of the Pulse shooting. The governor also cut funding for homeless gay and transgender teens in the Sunshine state. DeSantis—an early frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nominee for president —subsequently approved a $100 billion state budget after making the cuts. A spokesperson for DeSantis offered a tepid response to the vast and loud criticism of the significant reductions to LGBTQ services, saying in part, “No Floridian in need should go out without mental health care, and he absolutely supports each and every Floridian who has experienced such horrific traumas like the Pulse shooting.”

At about the same time as the slash and burn budget cuts in Florida, New Jersey legislators finalized plans to have the Pride flag fly high for the first time at Drumthwacket–more commonly called the governor’s mansion in Princeton. The flag is a historical symbol of empowerment and unity in the gay community. “It is of the greatest importance that everyone feels accepted in New Jersey, regardless of gender idenitity or sexual orientation,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am honored to show support for our LGBTQ+ residents byflying the Pride flag as we celebrate Pride throughout the month of June.”

For Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy, implementing policies and procedures supporting alternative lifestyles has become a mandate of the administration. For example, in March, Murphy signed off on legislation that established specific rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, undesignated/non-binary, questioning, queer, and intersex older adults and people living with HIV in long-term facilities. At the time, Murphy said, “{The law} mandates our commitment to our LGBTQI+ older adults by providing critical protection from discrimination.” No one should ever be ashamed for who they are.” He also signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports.

Some Floridians and LGBTQ advocates lambasted DeSantis funding cuts as disgraceful, a step backward for the gay community. Some accused him, an avowed supporter of ex-president Donald Trump, of reneging on his previous promises of always supporting those impacted by the tragedy. Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the shooting, told the Washington Post, “He looked me in the eyes and told me that he would always support those of us who had been impacted by the shooting.”
And Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said, “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 is an outspoken and vocal supporter of gay rights.

Lastly, while politics and Pride in Florida continue to be a tenuous and largely unpleasant topic for many, Pride revelers in New Jersey continue to celebrate. “Countless towns across New Jersey have embraced that hopeful and inviting spirit for years,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality. “Governor Murphy and the First Lady’s continued commitment to those inclusive values, every gay and transgender New Jerseyan will know our great state, does too.!

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