Rector came up with the idea after FDOT initially declined to change the colors on the Ringling Causeway Bridge
Editor’s note: This article was updated early in the morning of June 18 to include a statement from the Florida Department of Transportation.
After the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) initially said it would not change the lighting on the Ringling Causeway Bridge in Sarasota to mark Pride Month, the rector of St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key began giving some thought to how the church could respond.
“I was disappointed in the [FDOT decision],” the Rev. Wayne Farrell told The Sarasota News Leader during a June 17 telephone interview. “I was thinking and praying about it,” he added, trying to arrive at a way the church could provide a public, community expression of its support for Pride Month.
His answer came brightly lit by the sun.
The church has “beautiful stained glass windows,” Farrell pointed out in an email prior to the telephone interview. They measure 2,100 square feet in five panels that are 12 feet high and 36 feet wide, Farrell explained. Collectively, the artwork “magnifies God’s gift of creation and the seasons.”
The question was how to make those windows shine out at night, with their vivid colors representative of Pride Month, he said.
Finally, church leaders obtained 60,000 lumens of LED lights and put those inside the church. The lights have proven quite adequate to duplicate the sun’s daytime efforts, Farrell told the News Leader.
“The Episcopal Church celebrates diversity and respects the dignity of every human being,” Farrell pointed out in his earlier email. That was all the more reason he felt the tribute to Pride Month would be appropriate.
“St. Boniface is an inclusive and progressive parish,” he said during the telephone interview. Moreover, he noted, “We have many same-sex couples” among the membership.
Asked about responses from the public to the Pride Month display, Farrell said, “Internally, we’ve had some very, very positive comments.”
Many members of the parish have shared the news on social media accounts, he pointed out. One member, in fact, reported receiving the most “Likes” ever on a post, after the member wrote about the windows, Farrell added.
“The response has been so strong on social media,” Farrell summed it up.
As it turns out, after Farrell and his St. Boniface parishioners decided to show their support for Pride Month, FDOT reversed its decision on the Ringling Bridge.
In a June 16 email to Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown, City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs and the other city commissioners, Mayor Hagen Brody wrote, “Today we received word from our FDOT District Secretary, following a meeting of the [district secretaries] statewide, that they have reconsidered [the] denial to light the Ringling Causeway Bridge in recognition of Pride Month. As a result, our FDOT is reversing that decision and affirming our request as a matter of ‘broad community interest.’”
Brody did note, “However, even though the full City Commission adopted a proclamation officially and for the first time in the City’s history recognizing pride month, a prerequisite agreed upon by all district [secretaries] is a formal resolution by the local government requesting the specific display. Upon [the commission’s] 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 [that] resulted in the LGBTQ human rights movement,” Brody added.
The Library of Congress explains that Pride Month was created “to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.”””
Britannica says the Stonewall Uprising was a “series of violent confrontations that began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, between police and gay rights activists outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. As the riots progressed, an international gay rights movement was born.”
As a result of the FDOT decision, Brody called a special City Commission meeting for 6 p.m. on Monday, June 21, for the adoption of the necessary resolution. That meeting will be held at City Hall, which is located at 1565 First St. in downtown Sarasota.
In response to a News Leader request for a comment about the change in FDOT”s stance, department spokesman Brian Rick sent the following on the morning of June 18: “The district is continuing to work with the city to accommodate their lighting request and ensure broad community interest through a local resolution. It is the department’s understanding that this will be discussed at the city commission meeting Monday evening.
“If a resolution passes,” the statement added, “the department will be expeditiously facilitating the city’s bridge lighting request. The department will continue to follow the existing bridge lighting policy and, in addition to the referenced approved holidays within the policy, it will review requests that include items such as resolutions which may articulate broad community interest and request at least 30 days advance notice.”
In his June 16 email, Brody pointed out, “The symbolism [of] lighting the bridge at this point in recognition of Pride Month exhibits our commitment to a welcoming and inclusive community for all of our residents and visitors.”
“I want to thank FDOT Secretary [L.K.] Nandam for his thoughtful reconsideration of this meaningful gesture,” Brody added. “Better late than never.”