Florida reverses itself, will allow rainbow bridge lighting

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Jacksonville Transportation Authority

In this photo provided by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the Acosta Bridge is illuminated with rainbow lighting in honor of Pride Month, Monday, June 7, 2021, in downtown Jacksonville, Fla. Florida has doused the rainbow lights temporarily decorating the bridge to celebrate gay rights, saying the decision was not motivated by animus but because the display violated regulations. The lights were turned back to blue Tuesday night, June 8. (Fred Ortyl/ Jacksonville Transportation Authority via AP)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida reversed itself Wednesday and said a downtown Jacksonville bridge can be decorated in rainbow lights to celebrate gay rights, one day after it had ordered them doused.

Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis, told The Florida Times-Union that she didn't know why the Florida Department of Transportation had ordered the state-owned Acosta Bridge returned to its normal blue lighting Tuesday night, but said the rainbow colors will be back 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 struggle for gay rights. The state has allowed numerous celebratory lighting displays on the bridge to honor patriotic holidays, celebrate the Jacksonville Jaguars football team and raise disease awareness.

It had been the second time this month the state rejected a rainbow lighting display for a bridge.

“The bottom line is, (the rainbow) lights will be back" on the Acosta, Fenske told the paper.

The state transportation department said on Tuesday that its original decision to shut off the rainbow lights was not motivated by anti-gay animus but because the display violated regulations. It said the Jacksonville authority's permit for lighting the Acosta requires it to maintain a certain color scheme unless it 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 earlier rejected Sarasota’s request to light its John Ringling Causeway Bridge with rainbow lights this month despite also permitting other displays there. The governor's office did not immediately respond to a Wednesday email from The Associated Press asking whether that display will also now be allowed.