Metro Weekly

Indianapolis gay couple ordered out of Lyft for kissing

Ben Martella and Alec Jansen were forced to exit their rideshare after the driver objected to their "short kiss on the lips"

Photo: Lyft

An Indianapolis gay couple say they were kicked out of a Lyft in early May after they kissed.

Ben Martella and Alec Jansen were picked up from Butler University for a seemingly normal rideshare. During the drive, they shared a quick kiss in the backseat of the vehicle. Once they reached a stoplight, the couple told IndyStar that the driver ordered them out of the car.

“We basically pecked, nothing out of the ordinary,” said Martella. “He looked in his rear view mirror. He was yelling. We were stunned. We didn’t know the reason for it. He said, ‘I’m going to end your ride. I can’t have that in my car. I don’t have that here.’ … I was really upset. It was a big reaction for such a small display of affection between two guys.”

“We gave each other a short kiss on the lips,” Jansen said, adding, “I was just surprised the whole thing happened. It just didn’t seem like it was real.”

Martella and Jansen, who are a sophomore and junior at Butler University respectively, said they notified Lyft. In a provided email exchange, Martella’s money was refunded and the company spokesman, who went by only the first name “George,” said that it took “the appropriate and necessary actions.”

However, with Lyft and rival Uber both having sexual orientation included in their non-discrimination policies, Martella pressed to have the driver, an independent contractor, removed from Lyft’s network.

Martella’s correspondence with “George,” who is identified as a “Trust & Safety Specialist,” said that the company’s safety and privacy policies rendered them “unable to share specific action taken.” Martella described the back and forth as “very impersonal.”

“It’s all been halfway responses to the answer I was looking for,” he said.

A Lyft spokesperson told IndyStar that the driver, who has not been identified, was deactivated under their “strict anti-discrimination policy,” meaning he can no longer use the service.

“My parents were really upset,” Martella said. “They both work for the federal government. My mom wanted to take further action. I’m kind of contemplating that. I talked to my mom about going to Indiana’s ACLU. I don’t know if that’s the right path to take. There’s really nothing I need out of the situation. It’s my fear for others.”

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