An Uber driver is now under investigation after demanding a lesbian couple get out of his car when he saw them kiss in the backseat.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has suspended the driver's taxi license after Alex Iovine, 26, and her girlfriend Emma Pichl, 24, were picked up in Brooklyn last weekend and were headed to Manhattan when they smooched in the back. They had been celebrating a friend's birthday earlier.
About halfway into their ride, the driver, Ahmad El Boutari, pulled over and asked them to get out of the car. At first, they thought it was a joke — but no, he got out, opened the passenger door and ordered them out. Once they realized he was serious, they started recording.
“I’ve never experienced a situation like this in New York City. That’s why it was so shocking for Alex and I to be involved in. Growing up in the city, I’ve always felt comfortable being myself here,” Emma tells Personal Space.
Alex is heard in the video asking why they were being told to get out. The driver then tried to grab her phone.
"It's illegal," the driver said. "You can't do this in the car. It's disrespectful. You aren't allowed to do this."
“But it’s not illegal to kiss in New York,” Alex says, adding that it was only a peck.
The incident was reported by both the couple and the driver, and Uber says discrimination of any type may result in permanent deactivation of a driver's account.
Uber has apologized to the couple and refunded them. They also banned the driver from access to the app.
“We got refunded 15 dollars from the trip,” Emma says. “Uber apologized on Monday and let us know the driver lost his TLC license on Tuesday. Haven’t heard from them since then.”
As for using Uber, Emma says both she and Alex have deleted the app.
“We are definitely not going to be using it anytime soon,” she says. “We will be saving money and taking the subway. After the way we were treated, I think it’s important to stand our ground and show that what had happened is not OK.”
The hardest part of the whole incident, she adds, is the roller coaster of emotions since.
“There are tons of people who support you and there are some who paint you in a negative light. The hardest part has been ignoring the negativity and staying positive, but I keep reminding myself that this is greater than Emma and I and we had to share our story to make a difference for others in the future.”
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