TALLAHASSEE — It’s taken a fair bit of doing, but the Sunshine Skyway will soon be lit in rainbow colors in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month.
After initially denying a request from the City of St. Petersburg to have the Skyway illuminated with rainbows earlier this month, the Florida Department of Transportation reversed course Wednesday, according to Jim Nixon, the city’s LGBTQ liaison. The bridge will be lit for Pride from June 22 to the morning of June 29 now that officials have secured the approval of the commissions governing the three counties connecting the Skyway: Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee.
Initially, Kris Carson, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 7, said the bridge couldn’t be lit with rainbow colors because the Skyway’s $15.6 million lighting system was not equipped to shine so many different colors at one time. But the department has come up with a compromise version of the rainbow display that will “provide a rainbow effect,” Carson wrote in an email.
Approval came swiftly from the three counties.
Hillsborough County Commission Chair Pat Kemp wrote a letter Thursday in support of the idea.
“In light of the support for Pride Month here, lighting this iconic bridge in the colors of the rainbow strikes me as a beautiful and fitting tribute to this important celebration,” Kemp wrote.
Manatee County voted Thursday to give the department its blessing on Thursday. On Friday, Pinellas gave its approval, as well.
Carson said the department would normally ask for 30 day’s notice before lighting up the bridge. But Nixon requested to commemorate the June 28 anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots — a seminal moment in the history of the LGBTQ rights movement. The Stonewall Inn, a gay tavern in New York City, became a symbol of the fight for gay rights after a police raid sparked resistance from patrons and led to several days of demonstrations.
Earlier this month, Florida Department of Transportation officials near Jacksonville told the Jacksonville Transportation Authority that it could not continue to light the Acosta Bridge with rainbow lights. After a day of outrage on social media, the department changed its mind.
The reversal prompted Nixon to resubmit his request to have the Skyway lit up for Pride Month. A similar effort to have the John Ringling Causeway Bridge in Sarasota lit for Pride is also underway, Nixon said.
Carson said the department will ask all groups hoping to get special Skyway lighting to secure support from the Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissions going forward.