When the Trump administration wrote to the city of Ames, Iowa, instructing the town to remove its rainbow-themed crosswalks, the Ames City Council said, “Thank you, but no.”
At the intersection of Fifth Street and Douglas Avenue, the city has installed rainbow crosswalks as a sign of LGBTQ inclusion for the city.
This year’s Ames PrideFest was held at the intersection on September 7.
Two of the crosswalks use the colors of the inclusive Pride flag which adds black and brown to the traditional rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker in the 1970s.
Another utilizes the colors of the transgender Pride flag (blue, pink, white) and the fourth features purple, yellow, black and white representing gender-nonbinary pride.
The Ames Tribune reports that on September 5, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sent the city a letter saying the crosswalks could “compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, distracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices.”
Mark O. Lambert, City Attorney for Ames, penned a memo to the mayor and city council saying the FHWA has no jurisdiction over the streets where the crosswalks are installed since they are not part of a federal highway and Ames receives no federal funds for their upkeep.
Lambert’s interpretation of the law was that the state of Iowa should decide whether the federal standards should apply to city streets.
“With the system of federalism in the United States, the federal government does not have jurisdiction over everything,” Lambert summed up in his memo.
Lambert also noted that the FHWA’s letter didn’t threaten any penalties regarding the crosswalks, and had only ‘requested’ the removal of the crosswalks.
During a meeting of the Ames City Council, members discussed the issue and decided no action would be taken.
City Council member Chris Nelson said during the discussion, “Can we just accept the letter and say thank you?”
One resident even pointed out that the FHWA had gotten its own rules wrong.
“The crosswalk lines are white pavement markings that identify the crosswalks,” said resident Bill Diesslin reports the Ames Tribune. “The rainbow crossing in Ames has white lines demarcating, so it’s consistent with federal recommendations.”
Rainbow crosswalks have been a fixture in the United States for years.
From West Hollywood, which installed colorful walkways in 2012, to San Francisco’s The Castro which celebrated Pride with the rainbow crosswalks in 2014.
Philadelphia, Seattle, Key West and more have all embraced the rainbow.