Florida Faces Backlash After Ordering Jacksonville To Turn Off Bridge’s Pride Month Rainbow Lights

Florida reversed itself Wednesday and said a downtown Jacksonville bridge can be decorated in rainbow lights to celebrate Pride month and LGBTQ+ rights, one day after it had ordered them to be turned off.

The Florida Department of Transportation faced swift backlash on Tuesday after it had deemed the color scheme “out of compliance” on Tuesday.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority was set to light up the 1,645-foot Acosta Bridge this week — Tuesday through Sunday — to celebrate the LGBTQ community but instead utilized all-blue hues Tuesday night, the agency told The Washington Post in a statement Wednesday.

“The FDOT informed the JTA that our scheduled color scheme for the Acosta Bridge is out of compliance with our existing permit,” JTA spokesman David Cawton said. “The JTA will comply accordingly.”

The Post notes that the move came after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a much-debated transgender girls sports ban on the first day of Pride Month and sparked immediate uproar from critics claiming he was targeting LGBTQ causes. The bill bans transgender girls and women from being a part of public school teams intended for those identified as girls at birth. The new law, which was decried by Democrats and LGBTQ advocates as unconstitutional, is likely to be challenged in court.

Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Transportation, told the newspaper that the agency authorized the rainbow lights Wednesday.

Frady noted that the decision to turn the lights off was made at the local level and not from the governor’s office.

“While the schematic yesterday was not previously submitted/approved, in accordance with the bridge lighting policy, the department has since authorized its use as it is obviously a matter of broad community interest,” said Frady, adding that the agency would work “to ensure bridge lighting requests are facilitated consistently, fairly, and impartially.”

DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske told the Florida Times-Union that the rainbow lights would return to the bridge Wednesday night, saying that it was unclear to the governor’s office what resulted in the lights being changed at the last minute.

“The bottom line is, lights will be back up tonight,” she said. Fenske added on Twitter, “I want to be very clear that we/our office had no involvement.”

The Acosta Bridge incident follows a similar one last week in Sarasota, Fla., where the state’s Department of Transportation denied the city’s request to light the John Ringling Causeway Bridge in rainbow lights in honor of Pride Month, reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody called the FDOT’s decision “frustrating” at a time when the city is recognizing Pride Month for the first time in its history.

“It’s frustrating,” Brody said to the Herald-Tribune. “I think the state is being a little rigid … I didn’t think this request would be anything controversial. It’s really surprising to get pushback from the state.”