Walking to worship at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church will get a lot more colorful this week.
Gainesville’s Public Works Department is painting rainbows within a crosswalk at the intersection of NE First Avenue and NE First Street, as well as two others on SE First Street — near the Alachua County Administration Building and Hippodrome Theatre.
Friday is National Coming Out Day, which the Human Rights Campaign has designated in recent decades as an occasion to raise awareness of and celebrate LGBTQ rights.
The crosswalks are directly connected to the church, located at 100 NE 1st Ave.
Shelby Taylor, a Gainesville city spokeswoman, said the idea came from the organizers of Gainesville’s annual pride parade and festival.
The organizers approached the city commission with a proposal to have some of the crosswalks in downtown painted in rainbow colors as part of the pride celebrations, Taylor said. The city commission approved.
The pride parade and festival are held by the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida and are scheduled for Oct. 26.
Taylor said Public Works employees will paint the crosswalk at NE 1st Street and University Avenue that goes from City Hall to Bo Diddley Plaza rainbow as well.
Not a drop of paint has yet touched the crosswalks, but the gesture has been met with pushback from members of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
On Sept. 18, Sarah Montgomery emailed a complaint about the crosswalks to Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos. Sarah Montgomery is the wife of the Rev. J. Fletcher Montgomery, the rector at Holy Trinity.
“While Holy Trinity is welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community,” Montgomery wrote in her email, “the rainbow flag continues to be a divisive symbol in our very diverse community.”
According to Holy Trinity’s website, the church hosts a group called Love Out Loud, which gathers “for fellowship and support for the spiritual needs of LGBTQ+ persons and allies.”
“I do not think anyone should be forced to cross a political symbol on their way to worship,” Montgomery wrote in the email.
During Gainesville’s 2018 pride celebration, Love Out Loud held a pride eucharist service. In 2017 and 2018, parishioners from Holy Trinity walked in Gainesville’s pride parade bearing a banner that reads “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.”
The Rev. Montgomery has been the rector of Holy Trinity since December 2017.
The rainbow crosswalks planned for downtown Gainesville are not the first of their kind.
Ed Brewer, a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, also emailed Hayes-Santos to complain.
“From a personal standpoint, I lived in Austin prior to moving to Gainesville,” Brewer wrote, “and experienced the divisiveness that the move to install rainbow crosswalks caused.”
In 2014, the Austin City Council passed a plan to paint crosswalks rainbow and was also met with pushback. Nearby business owners expressed concern that the paintings would hurt their business, and one Austin resident referred to the rainbow flag as “divisive,” just as Sarah Montgomery did.
Rev. Montgomery said he was unavailable to discuss the crosswalks due to a pastoral obligation. However, he subsequently sent an email on Sept. 25 to the Gainesville City Commission to express a positive opinion of the crosswalks.
“I was so pleased to learn of your approval for the painting of a LGBTQ+ Pride Rainbow city crosswalk,” Montgomery wrote.
While Sarah Montgomery wrote of the divisiveness of the rainbow flag, Rev. Montgomery expressed a different opinion.
“The rainbow is of course also the sign of God’s covenant with his people promising refreshment, new life and hope,” Montgomery wrote in the email. “That is my prayer for our community.”
Editor’s note: This story and its headline have been updated to reflect the fact that only individual Holy Trinity church members expressed concerns over the painted crosswalks, while Holy Trinity as a congregation did not. Terry Fleming, co-president of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, also called after this story’s publication to correct the date of the pride parade and festival as Oct. 26 and to note only one crosswalk near the church will feature rainbow colors.