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Society

Florida Reverses Itself, Will Allow Rainbow Bridge Lighting

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. 

According to the state's bridge lighting policy, the transportation department can reject any temporary color scheme it deems offensive or not in the public's best interest. It also says special lighting displays should be limited to federal or state holidays or celebrations and "events of broad community interest and significance approved by local governments." Fenske said those policies will be reviewed. 

The Times-Union reports  that the Acosta is frequently lit in different color schemes. 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 neurofibromatoses, a neurological disorder that causes tumors; light blue for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the fatal condition commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease; purple for lupus awareness; and red, white and blue for Memorial Day. 

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