Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
Some politicians have declared that the LGBT-friendly symbols are “completely unnecessary.”
The Austrian city of Linz is dismantling its gay-friendly traffic signals, after a member of the country’s far-right Freedom Party said the symbolic lights were “completely unnecessary.”
Back in May, the Austrian capital of Vienna installed the lights—depicting opposite- and same-sex couples holding hands—in honor of the Eurovision Song Contest, a famously gay-friendly event. As Reuters reported, “The campaign is intended to present Vienna as an open-minded city and also to improve traffic safety as the unusual symbols attract the attention of drivers and pedestrians.”
The traffic signals were so popular that that they spread to nearby Salzburg and Linz. Vienna, meanwhile, decided to keep the lights after the conclusion of the Eurovision event, even after the Freedom Party filed a criminal complaint against the politician who spearheaded the traffic signal project.
Which takes us to December. The lights have been totally removed from Linz, the BBC reports. “Traffic lights are for traffic and should not be misused to impart advice on how to live your life," traffic official Markus Hein of the Freedom Party told an Austrian paper. Hein argued that same-sex couples already have rights in Austria, which means the lights are "completely unnecessary."
(In June, the Austrian parliament rejected a resolution that would have permitted same-sex couples to marry, though they are currently permitted to participate in “registered partnerships.”)
Severin Mayr, a local Green Party lawmaker, called the decision to take down the lights “shameful.” “[E]lsewhere signs are put up to promote openness and peaceful coexistence,” he told the BBC, adding that Linz has moved the opposite way.
The anti-immigrant Freedom Party is newly powerful in Austria: It finished second in state elections in September, after scoring significant political points for its strong stance against the ongoing movement of migrants into the country. The Freedom Party is just one of several far-right European political groups that have cashed in on xenophobic sentiment following the Syrian migrant crisis and the ISIS-led terror attacks in Paris. Just this past weekend, France’s far-right National Front came out on top in six of 13 regional elections.