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Monday, March 04, 2024

Gainesville paints crosswalks rainbow to celebrate “Coming Out Day”

<p dir="ltr">A pedestrian walks past one of the rainbow crosswalks Tuesday evening in downtown Gainesville near Bo Diddley Plaza.</p>

A pedestrian walks past one of the rainbow crosswalks Tuesday evening in downtown Gainesville near Bo Diddley Plaza.

Rainbow crosswalks have been in cities around the country from Atlanta to Seattle to New York. This week, Gainesville will add itself to the list.

The city’s Public Works Department started painting the crosswalks at Northeast First Street and Northeast First Avenue by City Hall, and Southeast First Street by the Hippodrome Theatre in celebration of National Coming Out Day.

The annual awareness day was designated by the Human Rights Campaign in 1988 to “promote a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly.” The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida approached city commissioners with the idea earlier this year, and it was approved unanimously, said City Commissioner David Arreola.

The community center also set up a GoFundMe fundraiser seeking $7,000 for the costs of painting the crosswalks. The painted crosswalks are expected to be done by Friday, in time for the annual Gainesville Pride Parade and Festival next weekend.

Painting began Tuesday at the intersection of Northeast 1st Street, with half the crosswalk already sporting the colors of the rainbow. But, not everyone is in favor of the new crosswalks. 

Some members of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church have reached out to city commissioners to express their opposition, describing the pride flag as “divisive” and “a political symbol.”

“From a personal viewpoint, I lived in Austin prior to moving to Gainesville and experienced the divisiveness that the move to install rainbow crosswalks caused in back 2014 both with downtown churches and the public at large,” Ed Brewer, a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church wrote in an email to City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos. 

Brewer added the city did not consult with the church prior to approving the change, referring to it as “an illegal government action and in contravention of the First Amendment.” Crosswalks and sidewalks are considered public property. 

Sarah Montgomery, wife of Reverend J. Fletcher Montgomery who is the rector at Holy Trinity, also expressed her disdain about the crosswalks in an email to Commissioner Hayes-Santos.

“While Holy Trinity is welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, the rainbow flag continues to be a divisive symbol in our very diverse community…,” Sarah Montgomery wrote in the email. “I do not think anyone should be forced to cross a political symbol on their way to worship.”

Hayes-Santos could not be reached for comment as he is out of the country.

Despite reservations from some members, Rev. Montgomery shared praise about the crosswalks in an email to Hayes-Santos. 

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Montgomery wrote that he was pleased to hear about the rainbow crosswalk. 

“It is my sincere hope that this colorful symbol of unity through diversity will be recognized as a bridge that will bring the people of Gainesville ever closer to real unity and peace.”

A pedestrian walks past one of the rainbow crosswalks Tuesday evening in downtown Gainesville near Bo Diddley Plaza.

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