News (USA)

Judge sides with Uber driver who kicked a lesbian couple out of his car

Alex Iovine and Emma PIchl
Photo: Facebook/Alex Iovine

Last month, a lesbian couple said they were kicked out of an Uber because they kissed. A judge, though, found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support their claim.

Emma Pichl, 24, and her girlfriend Alex Iovine, 26, were taking an Uber in Manhattan last month, when they said that they shared a small kiss.

“At one point we leaned over and pecked kiss, very fast,” Pichl said.

Driver Ahmad El Boutari asked them to leave the car, saying that they were being “disrespectful” and that what they did was “illegal.” Part of the couple’s confrontation with the driver was caught on video.

They filed a complaint for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and the driver’s taxi license was suspended.

Administrative law judge Joycelyn McGeachy-Kuls recommended that El Boutari’s taxi license be reinstated.

“[The Taxi and Limousine Commission] has provided no evidence that this refusal of continued service was based on the sexual orientation of these passengers,” she wrote in her decision.

McGeachy-Kuls wrote that she just doesn’t believe that anyone would be so homophobic that they would refuse to do business with a lesbian couple.

“It seems unlikely that this ‘peck kiss’ alone would cause him to ask the passengers to get out of his car,” she wrote. “It is also unlikely that [the driver] would give up a fare and potentially risk receiving a bad Uber rating for something as mild as a ‘peck kiss.’”

El Boutari told the court that the women did more than a quick kiss, that they engaged in “heavy petting” in the back of his car. The judge found his testimony credible, but decided that the women – whose story varied slightly when they talked to Uber, Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the court – were not credible.

“[El Boutari] credibly testified that he asked the complainants to get out of his car because their conduct violated Uber’s policy prohibiting sexual contact between passengers,” McGeachy-Kuls wrote.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission will make the final decision about El Boutari’s license. They have not commented on the matter.

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