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Florida u-turns and now allows local bridge to be lit in rainbows for Pride month

Jacksonville's Acosta Bridge lit in Pride colors
Jacksonville’s Acosta Bridge lit in Pride colors (Photo: JTA/Fred Ortyl)

Florida has reversed a decision to not allow a local bridge to be lit in Pride colors.

The controversy kicked off after the Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced that the local Acosta Bridge, which is normally lit blue, would be lit in rainbow colors for a week to mark Pride month.

However, an order swiftly came down from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), instructing the city of Jacksonville not to light the bridge in rainbow colors.

“This afternoon the FDOT informed the JTA that our scheduled color scheme for the Acosta Bridge is out of compliance with our existing permit. The JTA will comply accordingly,” said a statement from Jacksonville on Tuesday night.

The Acosta Bridge is regularly illuminated in different colors to mark other significant dates, such as pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, holidays, or to celebrate the Jacksonville Jaguars football team.

However, according to FDOT officials on Tuesday, the bridge’s permit only allows for it to be lit in single blocks of color. It said the decision to refuse to allow rainbow lights was not motivated by anti-LGBTQ sentiment. It said that Jacksonville needed to apply for special permission if it wants to use more than one color.

Again, the bridge is sometimes lit in more than one color. As this image shows from Memorial Day a couple of weeks back.

The lights turned back to their regular blue again on Tuesday night. After the issue began to blow up on social media, a reversal was announced.

Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), told NBC on Wednesday she didn’t know exactly why the lights had been ordered off at the last minute: “The Governor was most definitely not involved in that decision, and it’s absurd to think otherwise. The (Acosta) bridge lights will be back up for the remainder of the week.”

The bridge duly turned rainbow again last night.

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Fenske also said a review would be carried out on the state’s bridge lighting policy. At the moment, the transportation department can reject temporary color schemes if it deems them offensive or not in the best public interest. It will grant approval if for reasons of “broad community interest and significance approved by local governments.”

These are not the first rainbow lights Florida has turned down. Last week, the FDOT declined a request from Sarasota to light the local John Ringling Causeway Bridge with rainbow lights. This is despite allowing it to light the bridge in red, white and blue last year for Covid-19 patients at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. It also refused rainbow lights on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects the city of St. Petersburg to Manatee County.

There has been no word yet on whether those decisions will be reversed.

Governor DeSantis, a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, faced criticism from many LGBTQ advocates last week for choosing the first day of Pride Month to sign a law barring trans youth from competing in school sports by their gender. On the second day of Pride Month, he slashed funding for LGBTQ issues from the state budget.

Related: Florida Governor strips funding for LGBTQ people from state budget at start of Pride Month