Florida forced into embarrassing U-turn after trying to shut down harmless Pride illuminations

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Florida has rapidly U-turned after shutting down a Pride display on Jacksonville’s Acosta bridge for an unexplained permit violation.

The bridge was due to be lit in rainbow colours all week to support Pride Mbangonth, but they only lasted a day before Florida’s Department of Transportation (FDOT) unexpectedly pulled the plug.

According to the city of Jacksonville, officials were told the lights were “out of compliance” – despite many other routine lighting displays being approved.

A statement from the Jacksonville Transport Authority (JTA) read: “This afternoon, the FDOT informed the JTA that our scheduled colour scheme for the Acosta Bridge is out of compliance with our existing permit. The JTA will comply accordingly.”

The move came days after Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning trans children from girls’ sports, and was met with heavy criticism from LGBT+ advocates and allies.

“Tell me your governor is homophobic without telling me they’re homophobic,” tweeted representative Anna Eskamani.

Many locals pointed out that the bridge is often lit in different colours throughout the year, including the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Autism Awareness Month.

More recently, when quarterback Trevor Lawrence was selected for the Jacksonville Jaguars the bridge was lit orange and purple, the colours for Clemson University, where Lawrence played in college.

But when it came to Pride, the rainbow colours had to go.

It was not immediately clear what part of the lighting was out of compliance, with a FDOT spokesperson telling Jacksonville.com that “it is my understanding that a certain colour palette is available” on the current permit.

It’s the second time this month the state rejected a rainbow lighting display for a bridge, the first being the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Democrat Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor, said he is perplexed with the bridge denials and the state’s general lack of support for the LGBT+ community.

“It seems like there’s an all-out assault on the LGBT+ community by the DeSantis administration,” Crist said. “This is awful, it’s discriminatory and it’s cruel.”

The FDOT told News4Jax that the office of Florida’s governor had not been involved in the decision regarding the Acosta Bridge, and that it was a local issue that’s now under FDOT investigation.

In the meantime, the lights are back on. DeSantis‘ spokesperson Taryn Fenske said the FDOT is “letting it go” after conceding that many other other lighting displays “went up that were not on the approved list”.

She added that the permit process would be reevaluated going forward.

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