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Orlando faith leaders call on Rick Scott to sign anti-discrimination order

Saying he promised to do something after Pulse and the gay community is still waiting, a congregation of Orlando faith leaders Monday called on Gov. Rick Scott to sign an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination in state government.

The Rev. Terri Steed Pierce, senior pastor at the Joy Metropolitan Community Church, which serves Orlando’s LGBTQ community, was joined by other protestant, Roman Catholic, and Muslim faith leaders to urge and even pray for Scott to sign the executive order they said was promised a few weeks after the June 12, 2016, massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse that killed 49 and wounded 53.

Their call joins those of Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and others at Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay-rights advocacy group, who have grown sharply critical of Scott in recent weeks for not signing an order they said he had pledged.

Scott’s office said the state follows federal guidelines and that state agencies do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and state employees should not be discriminated against in any way.

“Florida is a state that doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any form,” the statement read. “Our office will continue to review ways we can work to eliminate discrimination of any kind.”

Steed Pierce and the other faith leaders who joined her Monday said that simply acknowledging and adopting federal guidelines was not enough; they wanted to see Scott formalize it with an executive order, showing firm commitment.

“Gov. Scott came to Orlando two days after the Pulse massacre to offer his support to our community. He came to this very place, sat in this very room, a sanctuary created for and by the LGBT community to share his concern with us, and with all of those affected and effected by the hate crime that happened one and half miles from here,” Steed Pierce said. “Gov. Scott was kind and sympathetic. He was shocked to hear about our realities. And upon leaving that day he promised to stay in touch.

“And so the governor continued to call me often to check on our church and this community. He agreed to do whatever he could to help us heal,” she continued. “It’s been over a year now, and the best way we can heal and overcome the loss our community suffered, is to honor the fallen with our action. The time for talking is over. It’s time to do something. Taking action can change things. And we need change within our state.”

Hannah Willard, public policy director for Equality Florida, said Smith and other staff members of that organization met with Scott’s staff in July of 2016, and were told the governor’s office would vet the idea of an executive order to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation within Florida government. Willard said talks were ongoing and started focusing simply on the matter of timing for such an order.

Muslim Imam Abdurrahman Sykes, one of two chaplains assisting when the medical examiner met with families, said Monday that Scott must back up his sympathetic words with actions.

The other speakers Monday included retired Roman Catholic Rev. Rudolph Cleare, the Rev. Bryan Fulwider of the United Church of Christ , and the Rev. Jennifer Stiles Williams of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, who prayed that Scott respond to their call.

“It is disrespectful that after such an event, Gov. Rick Scott’s promise to extend nondiscrimination protection to LGBTQ-plus state employees has not taken place,” Sykes said. “He has the power to honor the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre, an unprecedented tragedy, with action, by recognizing LGBTQ-plus equality in Florida.

“With an executive order, the very stroke of a pen, Gov. Scott can set a new standard of LGBTQ-plus state employees. This executive order would bring dignity to the victims and good will to their families,” Sykes continued. “In addition, it would send the message that hate and bigotry would not be tolerated in the Sunshine State.”


Kamia Brown endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Orlando Democratic State Rep. Kamia Brown has thrown her support Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic governor’s race.

“I have watched with great pride as Mayor Andrew Gillum has campaigned all over this state for governor,” Brown stated in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “He is connecting with Floridians from every walk of life and every corner of Florida. I am proud to endorse him for governor, because I know he will be a champion for Orlando, for women, and for all those who need a voice against the special interests. I look forward to knocking doors with him in Orlando and beyond, to take back our state in 2018.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination in the 2018 governor’s race. The leading Republican candidate so far is Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Brown’s endorsement adds his list that includes those of state Sens. Jeff ClemensPerry Thurston, and Bobby Powell; and state Reps. Joseph AbruzzoLoranne Ausley, Ramon Alexander, Shevrin Jones, Al Jacquet, and Patrick Henry.

“I’m honored to have Rep. Kamia Brown’s endorsement in this campaign,” Gillum stated in the release. “She’s brought passion and energy to her work in the Legislature, and I can’t wait to work with her as governor. She is going to help us bring our message to Orlando and all across the I-4 Corridor, and I’m excited to be on the trail with her.”

Paul Renner pledges teamwork, ‘full collaboration’ as speaker

State Rep. Paul Renner pledged military-unit-like reliance on teamwork and full collaboration after he was elected by his Republican peers to be their leader-designate.

The Palm Coast Republican won on a first ballot during a closed-door meeting of Republican members of the freshman class Friday. He beat out J.W. Grant of Tampa, Erin Grall of Vero Beach, and Bryan Donalds of Naples.

Renner, a retired U.S. Navy Reserves commander and attorney, spoke of teamwork and collaboration, said his class is deep with expertise and experience and he intends to use that to the full extent.

He received 16 of 27 votes on the first ballot. Details of what the other three candidates received were not released.

“I think one of the things I spoke about is that every member of the team is critical. That is something I learned in the military, from the first day of boot camp. You learn that you succeed or fail as a team,” Renner said.

“The focus I would like to have is we have a great class, we can do great things together, and I want to be the facilitator,” Renner said.

Exactly what Renner or the other three said in their ten-minute speeches, or how the other Republican representatives responded, may never be known. The lawmakers gathered in a hotel near the Orlando airport and met in secret for nearly three hours before announcing that they elected Renner.

Unlike other recent Speaker elections in the era of term limits, this one was put off until after the Session to give the members of the class a chance to get to know each other and pick a leader from among people with whom they’ve worked.

“We’ve got a process here that will leave you with a class united,” House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues said to Renner. “It’s good for your class and more importantly it’s good for the institution.”


Rick Scott, Aramis Ayala fight heads to state high court

Does Florida’s governor have the power to take away a prosecutor’s case if he disagrees with a decision not to seek the death penalty?

The state’s highest court will hear arguments Wednesday over that question in a legal fight between Gov. Rick Scott and State Attorney Aramis Ayala, whose district covers the Orlando area.

Their fight began in March when Ayala, a Democrat, said her office would no longer seek the death penalty, explaining the process is costly, it’s not a crime deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. Ayala announced her decision as her office was starting to build a case against Markeith Loyd in the fatal shooting of an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant ex-girlfriend. With her decision, Ayala, intentionally or not, thrust herself into the forefront of the anti-death penalty movement.

Scott, a Republican, responded by reassigning her office’s death penalty cases to a prosecutor in a neighboring district, and top Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee announced budget cuts to Ayala’s office.

A spokeswoman for Ayala this week said she wouldn’t be talking about the case before the hearing.

In court papers, Ayala argued that it was unlawful for Scott to take away her cases since she is independently elected by voters, and that he could only remove her from cases for “good and sufficient reason,” none of which were present in their disagreement over the death penalty.

“Removing an elected prosecutor from a case because of a disagreement over her exercise of discretion is unprecedented,” Ayala’s attorneys said in court papers. “Every day state attorneys here in Florida make important decision on who to charge, what to charge, and what to prioritize. Giving the governor the tremendous and unfettered discretion to interfere in that decision making, would be unprecedented and could undermine the entire justice system in Florida.”

Scott argued in court papers that Ayala is refusing to follow Florida law by making a blanket decision not to seek the death penalty, and that her decision sets a dangerous precedent.

“The novel and extraordinary constitutional authority Ayala asserts, if accepted, will not just apply to prosecutors who decline to enforce the state’s death penalty laws. It will also apply to prosecutors who disagree with other kinds of criminal laws and penalties, including, for example, hate-crimes enhancements, laws that ban the open carrying of firearms and campaign finance regulations,” Scott’s attorneys said in court papers.

Florida’s death penalty has been in flux for the past year or so.

Executions in Florida ground to a halt last year after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges. The Florida Legislature responded by overhauling the law to let the death penalty be imposed by at least a 10-2 jury vote. The state Supreme Court struck down the law and required unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a bill requiring a unanimous jury recommendation.

Ayala, who previously worked as a public defender and prosecutor, was a virtual unknown when she ran for state attorney last year. With an infusion of more than $1 million from a Washington-based political action committee with ties to liberal Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros, Ayala unseated the incumbent state attorney in the Democratic primary and became Florida’s first African-American state attorney.

In her campaign, she promised to listen to communities that hadn’t had a voice in the past. Given that Florida’s death sentence was in a legal holding pattern at the time, capital punishment never came up during Ayala’s campaign.

A host of civil rights activists and legal scholars have come out in support of Ayala. Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Florida House, and other state attorneys, have denounced her decision.

“Ms. Ayala effectively abolished the death penalty … by implementing a hard-and-fast rule that removes her decision-making on a case-by-case basis, which is beyond the scope of her prosecutorial independence and discretion,” the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys said in court papers.

Ayala has also sued Scott in federal court, but asked it to wait until the Florida Supreme Court lawsuit is resolved.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Orlando may make pitch for 2019 Major League Soccer All-Star Game

Orlando is readying a pitch to attract the 2019 Major League Soccer All-Star Game but organizers could need $350,000 in backing from public funds and if they get that they’ll have to do it Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ way.

At Friday’s Tourist Development Council meeting, which Jacobs chairs, she lashed out at organizers for coming in late and through what she described as inappropriate protocol seeking county tourism tax support for the bid.

The bid must be filed with the league by August 25.

Jacobs’ refused to allow the council, an advisory board to the Orange County Commission, to vote to support any financial backing for the project.

Even while doing so, she insisted that she very much wants to see Orlando apply for and host the game, which would be sometime in July or August of 2019.

Instead, she worked out an alternative way the county could offer tourist tax guarantees to cover any possible losses up to $350,000, and the council voted unanimously to encourage the county commission to “take whatever actions deemed appropriate and necessary to bring the MLS All-Star game for 2019 here to Central Florida.”

That alternative cuts public notice timetables to the bear minimum; if they’re not met, the arrangement could force her to call a special meeting of the Orange County Commission in late August, and she said she’d be willing to do so.

She also made it clear that she has no intention of just giving organizers the money, and will require an audit to show that any losses up to $350,000 are legitimate.

The Central Florida Sports Commission, backed by the Orlando City Soccer Club, came in Friday with a request for county backing that would have had the Tourist Development Council vote to support the deal committing $350,000, and then have the county rush the proposal as an ordinance amending the county’s tourism tax plan in time for the August 25 deadline.

No, Jacobs said, as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Tourist Development Council member who argued briefly for that deal, looked on. Jacobs, who last year found herself at odds with Dyer, Orlando’s big theme parks, Orlando’s big hoteliers and others who wanted pieces of the tourism tax, has insisted on being a stickler for county rules and she held that position again Friday, even as she expressed her own enthusiasm for the MLS soccer game.

“We didn’t think we were in a position to do that because we didn’t really know they were coming in with this until, literally, Monday,” Jacobs said later. “And when did realize they wanted a commitment of $ 350,000 we didn’t have the time at that point to get the information we needed to analyze it the way would normally do to bring it forward with a recommendation. So one, it fell short of the timeframe for publicly noticing it that we adhere to, and it fell short of the timeframe we needed to thoroughly evaluate the request.”

The alternative funding process has been in the works since last year, a proposal to create a special “Sports Marketing Bid Fund” to make tourism tax available for just such opportunities. Five million dollars was allocated to that fund. But the proposal has been mired for months, and awaits an advisory board that is no where near ready to be appointed. This time – a one-time only situation, Jacobs said – she would support giving the MLS proposal backers the opportunity to dip into that fund without going before an advisory board, but only if Visit Orlando reviewed the proposal and made a staff recommendation as to whether it would make sense.

That could be approved at the August Orange County Commission meeting. The commission is not scheduled to meet on August 8 or 15 due to the typical August recess.


Florida’s unemployment dips to 10-year low of 4.3 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to a nearly 10-year low of 4.3 percent with the addition of 21,900 new private sector jobs in March, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday in Orlando.

While visiting the DusoBox plant, a 62-year-old, family-owned company which recently added 20 jobs to its high-tech corrugated box manufacturing and marketing plant in Orlando, Scott said that the May unemployment number is the lowest since August, 2007.

He also touted the state’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 3 percent, which has exceeded the national average for 62 months running.

The Orlando market once again led the state in job growth in May, and reduced its unemployment rate to 3.6 percent.

Scott used the opportunity to promote his newly-funded “Florida Jobs Growth Grant Fund,” established and funded last week in the Florida Legislature’s Special Session, after the Legislature had previously sought to gut his previous business incentives money program, through Enterprise Florida.

“I am proud that we were able to establish the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund during the recent special session. This flexible, transparent economic development program will promote public infrastructure and individual job training in order to encourage more businesses to grow and invest in our state,” Scott stated in an accompanying news release.

Scott also credited his past tax policies for DusoBox’s new plant, and for the expansions of other manufacturing facilities.

“One thing we did about four years ago and made permanent last year is we got rid of the sales tax on machinery and equipment so we could get more manufacturing jobs,” Scott said. “This state had not been growing manufacturing jobs when I got elected in 2010, and now we’re one of the leading states for manufacturing jobs in the entire country.”

As of May, Florida’s unemployment rate dropped 6.4 percentage points since December 2010, while the national rate declined by only 5 percentage points in the same time period, officials reported.

“This is all happening while our labor force continues to grow faster than the nation’s. Currently we’re growing at nearly five times the national rate,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We’re also seeing the impacts of the focus we’ve had on diversifying our economy to create manufacturing jobs.  In ten of the last 12 months Florida has led the nation in manufacturing jobs.”

According to the report issued by Proctor’s Department of Economic Opportunity, the top growth areas for jobs in the past 12 months are professional and business services, adding 52,900 new jobs; leisure and hospitality, adding 34,900; education and health services, 34,400, construction, 31,000, and trade, transportation and utilities, 30,900.

Florida job postings showed 255,858 openings in May 2017., while Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported 28,671 Floridians, including 1,551 veterans, were placed in jobs.

Rick Scott signs HB 7069, shifting education from ‘traditional public schools’

Surrounded by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and many of his members in a small, Orlando Catholic school dedicated to special needs students, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 7069 into law, initiating major shifts in how Florida provides education.

While the education omnibus bill offers changes for all kinds of schools in Florida, from requiring recess to reducing mandatory testing, it accelerates state tax dollar funding for-profit and nonprofit charter and private schools, expands parents’ abilities to chose schools, and tightens Tallahassee’s controls over what local school boards can and cannot do.

Democrats almost universally opposed HB 7069, to the point of declaring it to be sabotage of Florida’s public school system. Joined by public school teachers, parents, PTAs, administrators and many school board members, they had urged for weeks that Scott veto the bill.

“What this legislation does today is it helps all students, which is important,” Scott declared, a few moments before signing HB 7069, ending weeks of speculation of whether he would sign or veto the controversial measure since Corcoran and his team pushed through a dramatic rewrite on the last day of the Legislation Session.

For Scott and Corcoran, the architect, the bill declares a major shift from continuing reliance on what Republican state Rep. Michael Bileca of Miami described as continuously-failing “traditional public schools.” If Corcoran is the architect of HB 7069, he credited Bileca and Republican state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah for being the engineers, finding the ways to make it work.

The supporters of traditional public education put up an almost universal opposition.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa called the bill “an assault on public schools.” State Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park called it “politics over people.” Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando called it “an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents.” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham declared it to be a “massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests.”

But Scott, Corcoran and others called the bill Florida’s best hope.

“It is the greatest pro-family, pro-parent, pro-teacher session that we have had in the history of the state of Florida,” Corcoran said. All those things that we had listened to and heard, whether it is too much testing, whether we’re testing too much, whether it’s recess for kids in K-5, whether its pay raises for our highly-effective and effective teachers, whether it’s taking care of children with disabilities and giving them those funds to make those decisions themselves.

“We finally went in and said, ‘Hey, we’re the third-largest state, in the richest country in the world, and we have 195 failure factories, 340 if you just count a single year, the year we’re in right now, those are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope, and a chance at a world-class education and a future in this world,” Corcoran said. “We go in there, and we address it, and we allow those kids an opportunity to come in go to a school, regardless of ZIP code, regardless of where they fall on the wealth scale.”

Little was said of the critics who say the bill will drain more away from the traditional public schools, including control. But Scott and the others have heard the criticism for weeks, since Corcoran unveiled the massive HB 7069 on May 9.

“If we didn’t have any critics, if we didn’t have people fighting back against us, we weren’t doing anything. This really does something to change the status quo,” Diaz said.


Val Demings tries new route to get anti-terrorism money for Orlando

Orlando Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings has attached an amendment to a Homeland Security bill hoping for another route to get anti-terrorism money for Orlando and other cities left out of a federal grants program.

On Wednesday Demings got the amendment into House Resolution 2825, the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2017, during a U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing, to create a new avenue for anti-terrorism grants to at-risk cities.

Such money has been distributed to cities the department ranks as having the highest risks for terrorism, providing multi-million grants for law enforcement to beef up anti-terrorism capabilities. Orlando received such grants several times through 2014, but hasn’t qualified since.

Demings and others in Florida’s congressional delegation have argued that the department’s criteria don’t adequately take into account such things as the many millions of visitors the City Beautiful hosts each year. Congress members from other cities such as San Antonio had joined Demings in previous efforts to get Homeland Security to reassess its criteria.

The new program, outlined in Demings’ amendment, would permit cities and jurisdictions that previously received anti-terrorism grants to apply for new funding under a new program, to sustain counter-terrorism training and equipment. It would be a competitive grant program, and would authorize at least $39 million for the purposes of allowing high-risk urban areas that were previously eligible.

“Earlier this week, we observed the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack. The preparation that led to our local first responders’ successful response was created through previous grant investments, particularly the Urban Area Security Initiative,” Demings stated in a news release. “Unfortunately, the old UASI funding that is supporting some capabilities in Orlando will soon expire, and despite the Pulse nightclub attack, Orlando is, once again, an unfunded UASI.

“This legislation would help ensure that Orlando does not lose ground on preparedness,” she continued. “I believe we have no greater obligation than to keep the people that we represent safe from harm.”

She also offered two other amendments that were adopted into the bill by the committee, with the backing of the chair, Republican U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who also backed her grant program amendment.

– Her second amendment would require the Government Accountability Office to perform an independent review of the risk formula and award processes for the urban areas grant program.

– The third would authorize funding for the Transportation Security Administration to continue to staff airport security exit lanes with federal Transportation Security Officers.

Orlando Love: In a community-wide painful remembrance, celebration breaks out

With tens of thousands of people packing Lake Eola Park and countless more watching remotely, Orlando gathered Monday night for a somber remembrance the 49 people murdered at Pulse one year ago, and a celebration of love and unity emerged.

This was largely Orlando’s LGBTQ community’s opportunity to come together in a mass remembrance and a look back on the year since the nation’s worst mass shooting occurred at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub. Joined by families of the victims and thousands of straight allies – many of whom might not have identified as allies a year ago – the night turned into the city’s statement to the world.

“We are one big family,” declared Pulse owner Barbara Poma.

Beginning with the Procession of Angels into the park’s amphitheater – 49 people dressed in white angel sheets who had protected the victims’ funerals and become the living symbols of Pulse – through words from Poma, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, through numerous musical and dance tributes, and ending with the readings of the names of 49 victims, to the toll of a bell, “Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels” brought tears, hope and joy.

While sorrow sometimes took stage, including occasional cries of heartbreak from family members as names were called, much of the night called upon the world to look at Orlando as the light of acceptance and unity.

“One year ago tonight our lives in Orlando changed forever. From the families of the 49 beautiful, innocent, young people, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, Hispanic, African American, and straight allies, all killed for being accepting and loving of one another. Sixty-eight were wounded, hundreds were traumatized,” Sheehan reminded everyone.

“Orlando came together as never before to show we are a community united in love,” she continued. “Pulse taught our community to open their hearts and minds to foster inclusiveness, acceptance, understanding, and compassion. To the families I say, we can never say we can replace your beloved children, parents ,and spouses. But we can honor their enduring legacy with love, the greatest and most powerful force in heaven and on Earth.”

Officials said 1,350 Pulse survivors and families of Pulse victims asked to attend the event, and were given priority seating in the rainbow-colored Walt Disney World Amphitheatre. The night was for them.

“I believe the Pulse story is not so much about the vicious act of hatred and terror by a deranged killer,” Dyer said. “I believe it’s a story about triumph, triumph of courage over fear, triumph of understanding over intolerance. And a triumph of love over hate.”

It’s a theme that came up time and again all day as Orlando marked the year since the massacre.

“Out of the darkness, Orlando rose as a beacon of light,” Jacobs said.

Teresa Jacobs, Buddy Dyer, Patty Sheehan: Rainbow flag symbolizes Orlando’s values

As Orange County once again unfurled a piece of the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag in downtown Orlando, city and county leaders insisted its values of acceptance, understanding, diversity and inclusion shall forever define Orlando.

The anniversary of the catastrophic mass murder at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse on Latino night, June 12, 2016, began largely in celebration of what this community found within itself in the hours, days, months and now the first year since.

City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, introduced at the ceremony as the heart of Orlando, collapsed into the arms of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer as Section 93 of the miles-long Sea-to-Sea Flag, symbolizing the spirit of hope and love, was stretched into position on the Orange County Administration Building. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, other city commissioners, county commissioners, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma, and others all seemed ready to join in the hug.

The flag, Sheehan said, had long ago become ” symbol for LGBTQ unity in a time when we needed a way to symbolize the LGBTQ community.”

“We have responded to that with love and kindness and decency. We’ve responded to hatred with love,” Sheehan said. “That’s just who my community is, and I’m so proud of my community.”

Dyer called the day a year ago “the darkest day, by far, in our city’s history.”

“And since that morning we’ve come together in so many different ways, to support the survivors, the victim’s families, the first responders,” Dyer said. “In the face of terror, this community showed the world what the best of humanity looks like.

“But even in a place as welcoming as Orlando there is still much to do, to honor the legacy of 49 beautiful souls we can’t simply be bystanders,” Dyer continued.

“Here in Orlando and Orange County our compassion and our culture of inclusion and acceptance have shined brightly over the past year. And it is so important that we continue to embrace the values of the Rainbow Flag,” Jacobs said. “It is those values that have made our community what it is. It is the values of acceptance, of understating and of inclusion. Together we must continue to erase those lines that separate us.

“We must continue on the charge that we were given on June 12, 2016, when 49 members of our community became our 49 Pulse angels,” Jacobs continued. “We have a moral obligation here on Earth to do our part to make sure their loss is never forgotten, and the change they wanted to see is the change that we insist happen in our time, in our lifetime, here in this community and across the world.”

Although Dyer noted that many of the values of inclusion already were in place in Orlando, this is a city changed. Jacobs was part of that change, as Sheehan said she had observed Jacobs have “an honest epiphany of understanding of the LGBTQ community” last year, becoming a heartfelt ally of Orlando’s LBGTQ community. The first time the flag was unfurled there, late last June, much of the city felt the same way.

“I can tell you candidly that ten years ago that we would never have been able to fly this flag, or that we could do so without an outpouring of outrage and objections,” Jacobs said. “I can also tell you we received one, single comment of disagreement, in a county 1.3 million large.”

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