The state of Florida has relented and given the city of Sarasota permission to bedeck the John Ringling Causeway Bridge in rainbow lights to mark Pride Month.
The Florida Department of Transportation, which had initially turned down the city’s request, informed the city this week that it will allow the lights, Mayor Hagen Brody told NBC News.
“Today we received word from our FDOT District Secretary, following a meeting of the Secretary’s statewide, that they have reconsidered our denial to light the Ringling Causeway Bridge in recognition of Pride Month,” Brody wrote in an email Wednesday to the city clerk, Shayla Griggs. “As a result, our FDOT is reversing that decision and affirming our request as a matter of ‘broad community interest.’”
But before the rainbow lights can be turned on, the city commission is required to pass a formal resolution requesting “the specific display.”
Brody said the commission will meet on Monday, and the resolution is expected to pass.
“Upon passing such resolution the bridge will be lit for the final week of the month, including June 28th known as Pride Day in commemoration of the incidents resulted in the LGBTQ human rights movement,” the mayor’s email reads.
The FDOT, which had initially cited technical issues for not allowing the lights, said as soon as the city passes the resolution "the department will be expeditiously facilitating the city's bridge lighting request."
"The district is continuing to work with the city to accommodate their lighting request and ensure broad community interest through a local resolution," FDOT District 1 spokesman Brian Rick said in an email.
When Brody appealed the FDOT’s decision, he noted that the agency raised no objections last year to bathing the bridge in red, white and blue lights to honor Covid-19 victims.
“What we were trying to do is reflect the diversity of our community, and we saw this as a visual and fun way to show support for Pride Month,” Brody said. “This really should not be controversial, and yet it’s come to this.”
The FDOT’s reversal came a week after the agency found itself under fire for suddenly turning off the rainbow lights that had been adorning the Acosta Bridge in Jacksonville.
An FDOT official assigned to his corner of Florida, responding to several complaints “about the color scheme on the Acosta Bridge,” informed the city on June 8 that the colored lights were a permit violation and that they would have to be shut off.
Florida’s gay community was furious and directed some of its outrage at Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had angered many by opting to sign a law banning transgender athletes from taking part in school sports on June 1, the first day of Pride Month.
The DeSantis administration insisted it played no role in the FDOT’s decision, but on June 9, agency spokeswoman Beth Frady announced the rainbow lights were returning to the Acosta Bridge “as it is obviously a matter of broad community interest.”
Earlier, the FDOT also rejected a request for rainbow lights on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which connects the city of St. Petersburg to Manatee County.