A lesbian couple say they were kicked out of an Uber in New York City after sharing a brief kiss.
The driver’s taxi license, which is a requirement to drive for Uber in the city, has been suspended while the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission investigates.
Alex Iovine and Emma Pichl were heading back to Manhattan, where they live together, after attending a friend’s birthday party. Iovine told CNN they were on opposite sides of the backseat when they leaned in for a kiss.
“We were just having a conversation throughout the ride and, at one point, we leaned over into the middle and peck-kissed,” Iovine said. “That’s genuinely all it was.”
“We understand that someone would feel uncomfortable if people were making out in the car. But that’s not what was going on here.”
The couple said several minutes after he saw them kiss, the driver, Ahmad el Boutari, pulled over, got out of his vehicle, opened one of the rear passenger doors, and demanded the couple get out.
A video posted to Iovine’s Facebook page shows the couple arguing with the driver, who repeatedly tells them it is “illegal” to kiss in the car, to which the couple says it is not.
Uber’s community guidelines, listed on its website, say that riders “shouldn’t touch or flirt with other people in the car,” and that there is to be “no sexual conduct with drivers or fellow riders, no matter what.”
El Boutari told the New York Daily News that he was “uncomfortable” with the couple, and said he asked them to stop kissing and lower the volume on their phones. He added that he would do the same for a straight couple, but admitted his intolerance of same-sex couples.
“We would never disrespect someone else’s car in such manner and we always handle ourselves appropriately in public,” Iovine said.
She said she contacted Uber, who refunded the fare and apologized for the inconvenience, and added she also filed a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission.
The driver also reported the incident to Uber.
“Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have reached out to the rider regarding her experience,” company spokeswoman Susan Hendrick said. “We are investigating and will take appropriate action.”
“Obviously, he’s homophobic,” Iovine concluded. “I was very surprised. I haven’t experienced homophobic behavior in the city. We live in this bubble and think this can’t happen here in New York City. This goes to show that it can happen anywhere.”