A town in Iowa has refused to remove its rainbow crosswalks after the Trump administration told them it needed to go.
Ames, a city of 66,000 people home to Iowa State University, repainted a series of crosswalks last month to reflect the diversity of the community. Two were rainbows, another represented the trans flag, and the fourth represents the colors for nonbinary people.
That prompted the Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to contact the city with a letter claiming the repainted crosswalks are unsafe.
“Crosswalk art has a potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, detracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices,” the letter said. “The art can also encourage road users, especially bicycles and pedestrians, to directly participate in the design, loiter in the street, or give reason to not vacate the street in an expedient or predictable manner.”
In response, the city has decided to ignore the request.
“My only question is, do we need to do anything?” said City Council Member Chris Nelson according to the Ames Tribune. “Can we just accept the letter and say thank you?”
They can, said City Attorney Mark Lambert, because the Federal Highway Administration has no jurisdiction over local streets.
What’s more, Lambert said, the letter seems to be incorrect about the crosswalk violating any rules. “Frankly, I think that according to the manual itself, there’s a good argument we’re not violating the manual, since there’s no prohibition on colors,” he pointed out.
Federal guidelines call for white paint demarcating the boundaries of the crosswalk, which the rainbow markings have.
Many other cities have rainbow crosswalks, including West Hollywood, Seattle, and Philadelphia. It’s unclear why this particular installation prompted a response.
The letter did not request a reply, and so Ames officials feel confident that they can just note the Transportation Department’s opinion and move on. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of enforcement mechanism for the federal agency to force the town to take action.
There’s no word on which White House officials are responsible for the letter.
The Department of Transportation is currently led by Elaine Chao, a Trump appointee. She is also the wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has a lengthy anti-LGBTQ+ record.