SF To Spend $500M To Repaint Golden Gate Bridge In LBGT Rainbow Motif
Half-billion dollar effort will bring “gateway of joy” to city’s alternative community for 50th anniversary of gay pride
Speaking at the foot of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, Mayor Ed Lee announced today that the famed orange span would be repainted in rainbow colors — a palette that has become a global symbol of LGBT activism — in preparation for the 2020 Gay Pride Parade and Weekend celebration. Certain to be one of San Francisco’s most ambitious and expensive public art projects ever, the bridge will be transformed in the next three years at an estimated cost of $500 million, partially paid for by taxpayers.
Ironically, the idea for the painting scheme was originally proposed as a taunt by Blanche Elliot, a fundamentalist Christian housewife from Birmingham, Alabama, in a letter written to Harvey Milk in 1977. Milk, the first openly gay politician elected in the city of San Francisco, was assassinated in 1978 because of his gay views and activism.
In her notorious missive to Milk, Mrs. Elliot, who had just traveled to SF to visit Alcatraz Prison with her nine children, wrote, “Forget that pansy pink triangle I saw everywhere, why don’t you just go ahead and paint the entire Golden Gate Bridge in rainbow colors — then you and your fudge-packing friends can dance around on it like the little fairies that you are. My only reservation is that my darling, God-fearing children love rainbows and I wouldn’t ever want them to associate these beautiful natural occurrences with you ugly, unnatural turd burglars.”
Milk famously responded to Mrs. Elliot in a one sentence note that read, “Dear Mrs. Elliot, I not only love your rainbow painting idea, but it is perfectly appropriate for a bridge so often cloaked in fog that it has the highest incidence of rear-end collisions in the nation. Yours sincerely, Harvey Milk.”
San Francisco city officials resurrected and seized upon Mrs. Elliot’s accidental inspiration as a dramatic way to commemorate the anniversary while also embracing the city’s large and influential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
William Pernish, President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, said of the towering paint job, “I know if he were alive today, Harvey would grab a paintbrush and rush to cover a few supporting cables in bright orange and hot pink. He would absolutely love this!”
“We could not be happier with this decorative retrofitting of San Francisco’s most iconic landmark,” said Nancy Grover, Director of the SF LGBT Center, who also attended the announcement ceremony. “Now everyone crossing the bridge will know that our city is the gay capital of the world.”
The ambitious $500 million project was immediately declared a boondoggle by the Mayor’s Republican opponents on the city council, who issued this statement: “While we enthusiastically support our LGBT friends, and our opposition is in no way an indictment of their abnormal lifestyle, we believe that an expenditure of this magnitude at this time can not be justified merely to appease our rump thumping and muff munching neighbors.”
Mayor Lee said that the objections of Republican representatives have no bearing in this case, as the project will be largely funded by a $450 million bond proposal expected to win approval easily on the upcoming November ballot. He further reminded detractors that the $500 million total included the cost of returning the bridge to its original orange vermilion color in the three years following the two-day, 50th anniversary celebration scheduled for June 26–28, 2020.
Gilbert Baker, the SF artist who designed the original rainbow flag in 1978 at the invitation of Mr. Milk, was commissioned to plan the paint scheme for the 8,981-ft. long bridge with its two 746-ft. towers. “It’s absolutely wild that Harvey’s original vision, motivated by hate but transformed into love, will come to life on the Golden Gate. What an honor it is to be part of this magnificent and awe-inspiring project.”