Ahead of new law, PSTA won’t wrap buses for Pride 2024

PSTA’s 2023 Pride wrap. (Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent)

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority confirmed May 29 that the agency will not wrap buses for Pride this year, something they’ve done ahead of every St Pete Pride since 2016.

The news follows the passage of HB 1301, a measure supported by the state’s Republican supermajority and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. It will take effect July 1 and limits public transit vehicles to displaying brands and logos of the service provider, the official seal of the government entity or a state agency announcement.

According to the law, the Florida Department of Transportation is set to release guidelines for marketing and advertising initiatives. Officials initially planned to wrap buses ahead of St Pete Pride for two months but opted not to move forward with the plans before FDOT’s release.

“In our last legislative committee meeting we presented a revised plan for bus wraps based on the discussions the Florida Legislature had this spring and newly passed House Bill 1301,” PSTA Communications and Public Relations Manager Stephanie Weaver says.

“Since that committee meeting, we’ve learned that FDOT is in the process of developing regulations related to the implementation of that law that they have told us they will get to us later this summer,” she continues. “As a result of that information, we’ve decided not to install a Pride wrap, or any other holiday/parade wrap and hold off until FDOT provides this clarity on the law.”

The decision impacts wraps supporting veterans and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Weaver noted that the decision was not made lightly and PSTA will continue to support St Pete Pride in other ways, offering park and ride shuttle service on the day of St Pete Pride’s parade and more:

“PSTA sees its entire community and supports it,” Weaver explains. “That is whether you are a veteran, a senior citizen, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, or anyone, you are welcome onboard our buses. Our mission is safely connecting people to places, and our participation in Pride, through the park and ride shuttle, the parade, and other events aligns to that mission. Unifying people will always have greater meaning and impact than dividing people.”

The matter was also addressed by state Rep. Linda Chaney, a Republican who represents St. Pete Beach. She shared via social media May 25 that she played a part in PSTA’s decision.

“When I learned that this is how PSTA buses, a 93% tax payer-funded service, planned to wrap buses for TWO months in celebration of Pride month I immediately began discussions that ended with PSTA withdrawing the plan,” Chaney wrote via social media. “There will be No Pride wraps on tax payer-funded PSTA buses. Pride celebrations will continue as planned, but tax payers will not fund the promotion of it.”

Weaver confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that Chaney and other lawmakers met with PSTA CEO Brad Miller but denied the organization’s decision was in response to her concerns; taxpayer funds have never been used for the organization’s Pride or other celebratory wraps.

Chaney has not responded to Watermark’s request for comment but did discuss the matter further with Florida’s Voice. She told the outlet “staff obviously had to work on it, that puts taxpayer money behind this campaign and that’s not right.”

St Pete Pride President Dr. Byron Green-Calisch says the organization is thankful for PSTA’s longtime and continued support. A student of equity and social justice, he adds that whenever “there is an opportunity for increased social movement, that usually the next step after that is a backlash and an attempt to retract power or re-oppress the oppressed group.

“St. Pete has been a beacon for the queer community and an amazing example of how a city should support its residents in a state has been riddled with pieces of legislation that are designed to attack the LGBTQIA community,” he continues. “This is a really great example of that backlash.”

Green-Calisch also points toward the recent vandalism of St. Petersburg’s Progressive Pride street mural. It was defaced after its most recent refresh but will be repainted ahead of St Pete Pride.

“While these showings don’t change the support of the people who installed them, it is a really great example of how the work that we do is incredibly important because of these moments,” he adds. “We fervently stand with the PSTA and understand the nuances that exist in this space and we are appreciative that they are so going to show up to Pride, are still going to be visible and are still going to be engaging with the queer community.”

For more information about PSTA, visit PSTA.net. Learn more about this year’s St Pete Pride at StPetePride.org, in future issues of Watermark and the official St Pete Pride Guide publishing next month.

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