A New York City Uber driver allegedly forced a lesbian couple to exit his car after they kissed.
Emma Pichl and girlfriend Alex Iovine were traveling in the Uber to the East Village when they decided to share a quick kiss in the back of the driver’s vehicle.
“We got over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. We were sitting on opposite sides of the backseat. At one point we leaned over and pecked kiss, very fast,” Pichl told the New York Post on Monday. According to Pichl, the driver then “pulled the cab over and said, ‘You should not do that…do not do that.’” He then apparently opened the car doors and told them to leave.
Pichl added: “He started yelling at us that we were disrespectful and inappropriate and that he wants us out of his car…we were going back and forth trying to understand.”
The couple started recording the driver amid the confusion. He claimed in the minute-long video that the women were “not allowed” to kiss in an Uber as it’s “illegal” and “disrespectful.”
The women ask the driver, identified by New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission as Ahmad El Boutari, what the problem is, to which he replies, “Yeah it is illegal. You don’t do that here in the car…you are not allowed to do this.” The couple also said that the driver tried to grab Pichl’s arm to get her to put down her phone.
After the video ended, Pichl said Boutari “just got back in his car and sped off” and that they paid for the entire $22 Uber ride. Pichl that the incident “didn’t feel real” because she never thought she would experience that level of bigotry in New York City.
“We were in shock. Definitely very shaken and upset. We always thought we lived in this untouchable New York City bubble where LGBTQ is so accepted,” Pichl told the New York Post. “We never thought something like this would happen to us. It was a good lesson to show it can happen to you anywhere.”
The couple said that they were able to get a full refund and apology on Monday after filing a complaint with Uber, which has a non-discrimination policy in place.
“Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have reached out to the rider regarding her experience. We are investigating and will take appropriate action,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement Monday.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the driver should not have been driving with Uber in the first place.
“I think they don’t belong driving period,” Khosrowshahi said. “This is an open society and Uber is a platform that is available to anybody regardless of your background, your orientation, and that is sacred to us. It’s an unfortunate circumstance and we will do everything we can for that not to repeat.”
Uber is not the only rideshare app to have a driver kick out an LGBTQ couple. In May, an Indianapolis driver for Lyft allegedly booted a gay couple from his vehicle after they too shared a quick kiss in the back of his vehicle.