Joe Biden to Name Pulse Nightclub a National Memorial 5 Years After Shooting at Orlando Gay Club
President Joe Biden announced his plans to name Pulse Nightclub a national memorial on the fifth anniversary of the shooting at the Orlando gay club, which killed 49 people
After the House and Senate unanimously passed legislation to designate the establishment a national memorial, President Biden said in a statement on Saturday, the fifth anniversary of the shooting, that he will sign the bill, "enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground."
The gay nightclub is where 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen opened fire on a crowd during Latin night on June 12, 2016, killing 49 people and wounding 53. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history at the time, as well as the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBTQ people in the U.S.
Pulse co-founder and onePulse Foundation CEO Barbara Poma told PEOPLE in 2019 that she imagined a memorial that would "honor the 49 lives taken and all those affected while also educating visitors and future generations on the profound impact the tragedy had on Orlando, the U.S., and the world."
Poma unveiled the winning design in an international contest to design a permanent memorial. The nonprofit sought to raise $50 million to build the memorial and museum, which they hope to open in June 2022.
Serving as Vice President at the time of the shooting, Biden flew to Orlando with President Barack Obama to visit with the community and offer their support. "Over the years, I have stayed in touch with families of the victims and with the survivors who have turned their pain into purpose, and who remind us that we must do more than remember victims of gun violence and all of the survivors, family members, and friends left behind; we must act," he said in his statement.
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Biden used the anniversary to advocate for stricter gun laws, in addition to acknowledging gun violence's disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender women of color. "We must create a world in which our LGBTQ+ young people are loved, accepted, and feel safe in living their truth," he added. "And the Senate must swiftly pass the Equality Act, legislation that will ensure LGBTQ+ Americans finally have equal protection under law."
"In the memory of all of those lost at the Pulse nightclub five years ago, let us continue the work to be a nation at our best - one that recognizes and protects the dignity and safety of every American," Biden concluded.