Council Endorses Rainbow Crosswalks

Get out your rainbow chalk!

Council Endorses Rainbow Crosswalks
Courtesy of Austin Pride

Last Thursday, Sept. 25, City Council passed (on consent) a resolution to direct city staff to "initiate a public process through the Arts Commission to discuss" finding the means and method for installing rainbow crosswalks on Bettie Naylor Street, at the Lavaca and Colorado intersections, cementing the area as Austin's historic "gayborhood."

As the Chronicle reported last week (see "What's a Little Rainbow Crosswalk Between Friends?" Sept. 18), in earlier meetings between Council Member Mike Martinez, Austin Pride President Paul Huddleston, and area clubs, some neighborhood businesses had raised objections. However, as safety and legal concerns about the rainbow crosswalks are addressed, objections are falling away. At first, Péché owner Rob Pate expressed doubt, but he now supports the move, posting on Facebook, "We always have been and always will be proud to be in a gay-friendly neighborhood. ... If the legalities surrounding the rainbow crosswalks pass, we are 100% behind it. No question." Truluck's also backtracked after its initial objection, and bowed out of the discussion, reportedly due to some customer feedback.

All that aside, the point of gestures such as rainbow flags and crosswalks in what is known as a gay-friendly district is not to draw an exclusively queer clientele. Instead, it's a gesture, according to sponsoring CM Mar­tinez, "that would showcase our support for the LGBTQ community" – a welcome mat to show that Austin is a city of inclusiveness and diversity.

Bettie Naylor, the Texas women's-rights and LGBTQ activist for whom the street is named, had little patience for those who decline to speak up for themselves, and her daughter clearly took that lesson to heart. "I reached out to the four businesses on the block who had objected to the move," says Sharron Naylor. "I've always thought of Austin as one of the few places in this state that consistently held true to the 'live and let live' attitude that Texas takes pride in. I think my mom worked tirelessly to ensure that our community treats everyone with love and respect, and she's looking down with pride as Austin continues that work."

Presuming the crosswalks pass the administrative hurdles ahead, they'll be installed and maintained annually with private dollars through the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation. Huddleston says, "I'm confident and excited about making this happen. I'm not afraid to do some extra fundraising to keep this landmark move alive." We're excited too, but we're keeping an extra supply of colored chalk, just in case.

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