Skyway, Ringling bridges light up for Pride

ABOVE: The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, photo via the St. Petersburg Police Dept. on Facebook.

TAMPA BAY | The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is expected to allow iconic bridges in Sarasota and St. Petersburg to be lit in rainbow colors for Pride Month after all.

Sarasota’s John Ringling Causeway Bridge and St. Petersburg’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge are each expected to light up with Pride. Requests for the temporary changes were previously denied.

The news follows controversy surrounding Jacksonville’s Acosta Bridge, which in early June was scheduled to be lit in rainbow for a full week. The colors lasted one day before officials deemed the color scheme in violation of state regulations, a decision which was reversed June 9.

Sarasota and St. Petersburg officials were subsequently notified June 16 that FDOT would approve Pride colors for the Ringling and Skyway bridges. Under a new policy, however, they would be required to provide county resolutions supporting the requests.

Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody, who requested the Ringling be lit, shared the news with city officials via email. He did so after a meeting of FDOT district secretaries across the state. In an initiative spearheaded by Sarasota’s Project Pride, he also formally recognized Pride this month for the first time in the city’s history.

In his email, Brody noted that FDOT “reconsidered our denial to light the Ringling Causeway Bridge in recognition of Pride Month” and as a result, “is reversing that decision and affirming our request as a matter of ‘broad community interest.’”

In St. Petersburg, FDOT contacted the city’s LGBTQ liaison Jim Nixon. He requested the Skyway’s lighting as a part of Light Up with Pride in 2020 and 2021, an initiative he launched that illuminates local landmarks.

“The Sunshine Skyway is a Gateway to Pinellas County and a crucial Iconic symbol for the Tampa Bay region,” Nixon says. “Having the Sunshine Skyway lit for Pride Month would celebrate the large LGBTQ community that calls Tampa Bay home and elevate this marginalized community.”

Sarasota’s county commission is expected to meet June 21 to pass a resolution to light the Ringling. Due to time constraints and because the Skyway connects Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties, FDOT is accepting letters of support for three officials from each.

Hillsborough County Chair Pat Kemp, Manatee County Chair Vanessa Baugh and Pinellas County Chair Dave Eggers are expected to provide them.

“As we continue to celebrate Pride Month, already impacted by the pandemic … It’s my hope we can recognize the struggle that has come before and provide some comfort to our LGBTQ+ BIPOC and trans community that still faces violence and discrimination in housing and employment,” Nixon says.

Each bridge is expected to be lit for one week through June 28. The colors will be on full display during the culmination of St Pete PrideFest 2021 and as Sarasota closes its own historic June.

“This is what Pride Month is all about,” Project Pride President Jordan Letschert says. “Not just celebrating the progress of the past but ensuring progress today and tomorrow – staying visible and overcoming whatever hurdles we face, together as a community.”

06/24/21 Update: 

Sarasota’s commission approved the measure June 21. Hillsborough County Chair Pat Kemp, Manatee County Chair Vanessa Baugh and Pinellas County Chair Dave Eggers provided their letters of support on June 18.

View photo and video of each bridge below.

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