Last June, following the mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina, Anton Gunn, a South Carolinian and Community Catalyst board member, commented on Governor Nikki Haley’s (R-SC) change of heart about taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Gunn asked at that time a vital question: “If you take the flag down tomorrow, what is going to substantively change in the lives of black people and people affected by inequality in South Carolina?”
A similar question can be asked of Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) following the mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida — the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in the United States. Scott laid flowers at a memorial in Orlando to the victims, who were predominantly Latino and members of the city’s LGBTQ community. While we can appreciate his gesture of sympathy, we need to ask him a similar question: What are you doing to substantively change the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Florida? What are you doing to substantively change the lives of Latino people in Florida? Despite the fact both these groups are at disproportionate risk of being uninsured, Scott – like Haley – opposes closing the coverage gap. As a result, nearly a million people are uninsured in Florida and many among them are LGBTQ and/or Latino. It is likely that some among the men and women seriously injured in the Orlando attack, and facing a long and difficult road of recovery and healing, are doing so without the benefit of insurance coverage that could have been available to them through enlightened state action.
Governor Scott is also a strong opponent of gay marriage and sensible legislative proposals to strengthen background checks and reduce the availability of assault weapons.
Given the long and painful history of discrimination against marginalized communities in our nation, the laying of flowers – like the lowering of an offensive flag – is not sufficient to satisfy the needs of people. For justice’s sake, we need to demand more. And that will require people to stand up to Haley and Scott and demand substantive change.