The Acosta Bridge becomes the latest Florida LGBTQ controversy.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took a break from his relentless attack on the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, performing a dramatic reversal of policy that turned out the lights on a multicolor light display on the Jacksonville Acosta Bridge.
So far in June, Florida passed a law banning transgender youth from participating in sports, removed funding for Homeless LGBTQ teenagers, and sliced financing of Victims of the Pulse NightClub murders.
Last week, DeSantis removed funding, approved by Congress, for the Zebra Coalition. This nonprofit group has helped over 400 homeless teens get off the streets by providing temporary housing. DeSantis. He also stripped $150,000 in funding approved by the Florida legislature for the Orlando United Assistance Center.
The Orlando United Assistance Center provides mental health counseling and employment assistance services to the victims of families of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub murders, where forty-nine people died and fifty-three were wounded by a mass shooter.
The Pride Month Florida Legislative setbacks hit a new low when a rainbow-colored bridge in Jacksonville became this next target.
The Acosta Bridge traverses the St.Johns River. The city of Jacksonville has a long history of decorating the Acosta Bridge with light displays to honor various issues and events. For example, the bridge turns pink to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition, red, white, and blue lights celebrate Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The bridge even lights up for Jacksonville Jaguars' home games.
The rainbow light show was scheduled to light the Jacksonville skies all week in honor of Pride Month. The LGBTQ community and allies celebrate Pride Month in June to remember the 1969 Stonewall riots that started the modern fight for equality.
The Stonewall Riots started on June 28, 1969, after the New York City police raided a gay club on Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn. The police raids triggered six days of riots as the LGBTQ community stood up for their rights. Many historians credit this sentinel event as the start of the Gay Rights Movement.
The City of Jacksonville planned to honor the memory by lighting the Acosta Bridge in multicolored rainbow lights. The rainbow is a worldwide recognized symbol of the diversity of the LGBTQ community.
The Acosta Bridge lights temporarily displayed the rainbow colors but suddenly went dark after the Florida Department of Transportation ordered them to be turned off for violating a permit. Shortly after the lights went dark, they were turned back on but colored a deep blue.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority issued a statement saying, “This afternoon, the FDOT informed the JTA that our scheduled color scheme for the Acosta Bridge is out of compliance with our existing permit. The JTA will comply accordingly.”
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority claimed the lights were turned off based on instructions from the Florida Department of Transportation. However, the Florida Department of Transportation owns the Acosta Bridge, but the Jacksonville Transportation Authority owns and controls the lights.
The state-run Florida Department of Transportation reports directly to Governor Ron DeSantis. ActionNewsJax reported the governor’s official response was:
“[We’re] going to have to refer you to DOT/JTA.” Florida Times-Union columnist Nate Monroe explained there's "almost no way this didn't come from the governor's office. JTA has lit the bridge up with all sorts of colors on all sorts of occasions, with no pushback, until now."
Later today, the Florida Times-Union reported a dramatic reversal. The rainbow lights will be turned back on. Governor DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske told reporters "The bottom line is, lights will be back up tonight."
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