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Florida reverses Rainbow Bridge Lights pride month course after backlash

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Florida turned around on Wednesday and said a downtown Jacksonville bridge could be decorated with rainbow lights to celebrate gay rights, a day after ordering their extinction.

Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis, told the Florida Times-Union that she was unsure why the Florida Department of Transportation ordered the state-owned Acosta Bridge to return to its normal blue lighting. Tuesday night, but said the rainbow colors will return Wednesday night.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority had planned to use rainbow lighting on the Acosta throughout the week in honor of Pride Month, which commemorates the fight for gay rights. The state has authorized many festive lighting on the bridge to honor patriotic holidays, celebrate the Jacksonville Jaguars football team, and raise awareness of disease.

It was the second time this month that the state has turned down rainbow lighting for a bridge.

“Ultimately, the (rainbow) lights will be back” on the Acosta, Fenske told the newspaper.

The state’s Department of Transportation said on Tuesday that its initial decision to turn off the rainbow lights was not motivated by anti-gay animosity, but because the display violated regulations. He said the Jacksonville Authority’s license for the Acosta lighting requires him to maintain a certain color scheme unless he receives state permission for a temporary change.

DeSantis, a Republican, was criticized last week when, on the first day of Pride Month, he signed a law banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports.

The state had previously rejected Sarasota’s request to light its John Ringling Causeway Bridge with rainbow lights this month, although there were other displays allowed as well. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday from The Associated Press asking if this posting will now also be allowed.

Depending on the state’s bridge lighting policy, the Department of Transportation may reject any temporary color scheme it deems offensive or not in the public interest. It also says special lighting displays should be limited to federal or state holidays or celebrations and “events of interest and significance to the community approved by local governments.” Fenske said these policies will be reviewed.

The Times-Union reports that the Acosta is frequently lit in different color combinations. Last month it was lit in teal to honor the Jaguars for drafting star quarterback Trevor Lawrence; green for mental health month; blue and green to raise awareness of neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder that causes tumors; light blue for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the fatal disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; purple for lupus awareness; and red, white and blue for Memorial Day.

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