Biden declares gay nightclub a memorial after 2016 shooting

Jennifer Jacobs and Jennifer Epstein

President Joe Biden signed a law designating the former Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a national memorial to commemorate the 2016 shooting that killed 49 people, part of several White House events on Friday acknowledging Pride Month.

“A place of acceptance and joy became a place of unspeakable pain and loss,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “May no president ever have to sign another monument like this.”

Visitors pay tribute to the display outside the Pulse nightclub memorial Friday, June 11, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Saturday will mark the fifth anniversary of the mass shooting at the site.

Earlier Friday, Biden appointed Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, as a special envoy at the State Department for LGBTQ issues. The White House said in a statement that the position is “critical to ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights” of LGBTQ people across the globe.

The nightclub’s designation as a memorial is informal; it will not become a part of the National Parks System or require federal funding. The president and first lady Jill Biden also met with survivors of the shooting, family members of the victims and lawmakers from Florida’s congressional delegation.

The June 12, 2016, one of the worst mass killings in U.S. history, also wounded more than 50 people. Police shot and killed the gunman.