Sunshine Skyway Bridge during a previous Pride season. Source: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

Iconic Florida Bridge Won't Display Pride Colors This Summer

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

A single Florida county commissioner appeared to bring an end to several years of Pride colors lighting up the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which spans the Tampa Bay to connect Pinellas County to Manatee County.

The same commissioner seemed to quash a proposal to light up the bridge in observance of Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Local newspaper the Tampa Bay Times reported that Manatee County's Commission Chairman Mike Rahn "has expressed disapproval of requests for light displays honoring Pride and Gun Violence Awareness Day.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) requires unanimous agreement for any such lighting schemes by the county commissions of Pinellas and Manatee Counties, as well as Hillsborough County. The bridge "touches" all three, the article said, noting that the FDOT "want[s] to be assured any display has broad community support."

"In a Feb. 13 email from the office of Manatee County Administrator Charlie Bishop, administrators were informed that Rahn approved of displays for the Alzheimer's Foundation, National Ovarian Cancer Month and others," the Times relayed, "but the chairman 'will not be approving lighting of the Skyway for Pride Month or National Gun Violence Awareness Day'."

However, that missive "led to confusion," the Times noted, since "It's been long-standing policy that it takes a vote of the county commission, not a single member, to give FDOT approval."

Rahn said that his was not the deciding voice in the matter; rather, he maintained, "the bridge is controlled by FDOT," and provided a comment to the Time in which he declared, "I do not have the authority to override the governor of the state Florida. However, in my opinion, the lighting of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a FDOT matter and should not be left with to the individual counties."

Wherever the blame falls in that specific case, the FDOT saw to it in a separate decision made a week later that no special lighting displays will go up aside from generic red, white, and blue schemes "that will run all summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day," the Times noted.

"And it's not just the Skyway," the Times added. "All Florida bridges will be draped in patriotic colors for the summer, so no Pride bridge lighting elsewhere either in June."

The red, white, and blue lighting scheme is being touted as "Florida Freedom Summer" – a sales tax holiday that applies only to the month of July.

"By installing a patriotic light display that will run for months, all the different displays that had been planned for the summer were scrubbed, including ones honoring Mental Health Awareness (May 28-31), Juneteenth (June 19) and Ovarian Cancer Awareness (Sept. 1-7). Others that were close to getting approval were Sickle Cell Awareness Day (June 18), World Fragile X Day for autism (July 22) and Pride (June 20-28)," the Tampa Bay Times noted.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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