The state of Florida turned on Wednesday, saying it would allow a downtown Jacksonville bridge to be decorated in rainbow-colored lights to mark Pride Month – just a day after it hit the dimmer at that party.
A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed that the rainbow lights will be back on the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville Wednesday night, but insisted the governor played no part in the Florida Department of Transportation’s decision to turn them off.
“The governor was certainly not involved in this decision, and it is absurd to think otherwise,”
But many in Florida’s gay community are deeply suspicious of DeSantis, a Republican who angered many by signing a law banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports on the first day of Pride Month.
“The LGBTQ community is targeted,” local Pride President Jordan Letschert told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “The city of Sarasota is embracing us, but our governor and the state are sending the opposite message. They seem to be saying that we are not welcome. ”
FDOT has 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 Skt. Petersburg with Manatee County.
“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 support for Pride Month,” Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody told NBC News. “This really should not be controversial, and yet it has come to this.”
Brody noted that just last year, FDOT had no objection to the city bathing the bridge in red, white and blue lights to honor the Covid-19 victims, but made technical apologies when he requested rainbow lights for Pride Month.
And U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, a Democrat who fights for governor and represents Skt. Petersburg, has called it more evidence of “a total attack on the LGBTQ community by the DeSantis administration.”
In response, another DeSantis spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, replied: “The allegations you mentioned are purely political and not factual.”
The order to turn off rainbow-colored lights on Acosta Bridge appears to have come from an FDOT official named Mark Kuhn, according to an email provided to NBC News by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
“We have received several complaints regarding the color scheme of the Acosta bridge,” Kuhn wrote at 16.55 Tuesday. “Attached is the original permit and approved color schemes (by date). Please adhere to your permitted color scheme with effect from Tuesday, June 8, 2021. ”
Kuhn, who did not respond to a call and email from NBC News for comment, did not say who complained. But JTA said it would abide by the order and resume use of its usual blue lights Tuesday night.
“Our planned color scheme for Acosta Bridge is inconsistent with our existing permit,” JTA said in a statement, explaining the light switch.
On Wednesday, FDOT spokeswoman Beth Frady said in a statement that the agency has given the JTA the green light to resume the rainbow lights on the Acosta Bridge “as it is, of course, a matter of broad societal interest.”