The state of Florida overturned on Wednesday and said it would allow a downtown Jacksonville bridge to be decorated with rainbow lights to mark Pride Month – just a day after it pressed the dimmer for this celebration.
“What we were trying to do is reflect the diversity of our community and we saw this as a visual and fun way to show our support for Pride Month,” said Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody, at NBC News. “It really shouldn’t be controversial and yet we have come to this. “
A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed the rainbow lights will return to the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville on Wednesday evening, but insisted the governor had no role in the decision of the Florida Department of Transportation to turn them off.
“The governor was certainly not involved in this decision, and it is absurd to think otherwise,” said Taryn Fenske, director of communications at DeSantis. “The bridge lights (Acosta) will be back for the rest of the week.”
But many in Florida’s gay community are deeply suspicious of DeSantis, a Republican who angered many people by signing a law banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports on the first day of Pride Month.
“The LGBTQ community is being targeted,” local Pride President Jordan Letschert told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “The city of Sarasota embraces us, but our governor and the state are sending the opposite message. They seem to say that we are not welcome.
Brody noted that last year the FDOT raised no objection to the city bathing the bridge in red, white and blue lights to honor the victims of Covid-19, but offered a technical apology when it asked for rainbow lights for pride month.
The FDOT also said no to the idea of rainbow lights on the John Ringling Causeway Bridge in Sarasota and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects the city of St. Petersburg to Manatee County. And US Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor and representative of St. Petersburg, called it further evidence of “a total attack on the LGBTQ community by the DeSantis administration.”
In response, another spokesperson for DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, replied, “The allegations you mentioned are purely political and not factual.
The order to turn off the rainbow-colored lights on the Acosta Bridge appears to come from an FDOT official named Mark Kuhn, according to an email provided to NBC News by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
“We received several complaints about the color scheme on the Acosta Bridge,” Kuhn wrote at 4:55 pm Tuesday. “Attached is the original permit and approved color schemes (by date). Please adhere to your authorized color scheme as of Tuesday, June 8, 2021.”
Kuhn, who did not respond to a call and email from NBC News for comment, did not specify who had complained. But the JTA said it would comply with the order and resume its usual blue lights on Tuesday evening.
“Our planned color scheme for the Acosta bridge is not in line with our existing permit,” JTA said in a statement, explaining the light switch.
FDOT spokeswoman Beth Frady said in a statement on Wednesday that the agency had given the green light to the JTA to take over the rainbow lights on the Acosta Bridge “because it is obviously a matter of general interest to the community “.