New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn, an openly gay woman, has condemned an anti-gay, racist series of remarks by a horse-drawn carriage driver but backed the practice of keeping horses on the city streets.

Tennis player and PETA spokeswoman Martina Navratilova had written to the speaker about the series of comments which were made to a group of women handing out flyers protesting the treatment of horses.

On the weekend of the city’s gay pride celebrations, the women were drawing attention to the plight of the horses on Manhattan’s streets.

A carriage driver responded to the group (scroll down for video) asking if they had had a large “dyke convention”, calling a member of the group a “c***” and a “fucking n*****”.

In a letter published at Towleroad, Ms Navratilova urged Ms Quinn to act, “not just because of the danger and the cruelty endured by the horses in midtown traffic but also because of the aggressive homophobia exhibited by carriage drivers”.

She said a large number of supporters of controversial PETA group were gay.

The tennis star wrote: “We share a heightened sense of responsibility in fighting the callous disregard that many have for animal suffering because we have experienced a similar disregard for the cruelty that we ourselves have faced.”

She added: “As evidenced by the hateful, bigoted carriage driver in the video, everything about this industry is stuck in the 19th century.”

Ms Quinn said in response the “behavior depicted in this video is reprehensible and unacceptable from anyone, and is especially unbefitting of an industry the City Council has made sure treats its animals humanely.”

She said the drivers’s union accepted its members should have anti-discrimination training and would cooperate with her office to find an organisation to deliver it.

To Ms Navratilova, however, she said she supported “allowing an industry that generates vital jobs and tourism for our city to continue”, and would not oppose New York’s horse-drawn carriages.