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FDOT's policy for lighting state bridges spark outrage among LGBTQ activists

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 09, 2021

FLORIDA — The historic Skyway Bridge has the ability to be lit up with multiple different colors at one time, including LGBTQ Pride colors, which is why St. Pete’s LGBTQ leaders requested that for the city’s first “Light up with Pride” event last year.

“We created the event last year,” Jim Nixon said. “Because of the pandemic, Pride Events were canceled. We created the event to visualize the city’s celebration of St. Pete Pride.”

Nixon is the city’s LGBTQ liaison and the director of the LGBTQ Welcome Center. He helped organize “Light up with Pride,” and he’s the one who sent the written request for the bridge to be lit up to the Department of Transportation. He thought it wouldn’t be a problem.

“I knew there had been other events that they did it for, specifically USF’s graduation when it was canceled,” he said. “We’ve also seen it lit up red for tourism week.”

But, after several emails, he said an FDOT spokesperson called him to tell him his request was denied. He said he was told, though there wasn’t a policy against it, FDOT had received “so many requests that they couldn’t do all the light-ups for everyone.”

ABC Action News reached out to FDOT’s spokeswoman Kris Carson. She confirmed that was the reason given. Nixon said he understood, and let it go.

The issue came back up this year because Sarasota leaders requested to have the Ringling Causeway Bridge lit up with pride colors. FDOT denied their request. Earlier this week, Jacksonville transportation officials lit the Acosta bridge up with the rainbow colors to celebrate pride, but FDOT made them take the colors down because it “wasn’t in compliance with their permit.” Also, a spokesperson for FDOT’s regional office in Jacksonville told ABC Action News, the Jacksonville Transit Authority hadn’t submitted a request to change the colors of the bridge.

According to FDOT’s policy, bridges can only be lit up in one of eight themes. They are Elegant, Gateway, Purple Majestic, Patriotic, Sunset, Verdant Green, Waves, and New Year's. This is a new policy that was put in place late last year.

“I think it was in direct response to our request,” said Nixon. “They did not want to light up the bridge in the rainbow colors.”

FDOT said that’s not the case. According to them, the policy was created “because of the overwhelming calls and emails for color changes.”

“It’s sad,” Nixon said. “What we hear in the news, and what we see coming out of the capital show us that we are not an inclusive state.”

There’s some good news for folks in Jacksonville. Gov. Ron Desantis heard about this and has instructed FDOT to allow the Acosta Bridge to be lit up in the rainbow colors. That move prompted Nixon to resubmit his request to have the Skyway bridge lit up on June 28 to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

“That will be great if they approve it,” he said.

FDOT tells us the request is under review, and they hope to have a response for Nixon by the end of the week.