A shuttle bus company in the US state of New Mexico has apologised after a driver allegedly told a gay couple to sit at the back of a bus for holding hands.

Standard Parking Inc, said that it respected the rights of all customers, and that it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.

The company runs the Albuquerque airport’s shuttle service to the rental-car centre, and said that after the couple reported the incident in late June, the employee in question was immediately suspended.

Ron McCoy and Chris Bowers had flown into Albuquerque from Portland, Oregon on 28 June, and were in New Mexico for a road trip through the South West, reports KCTV 5.

They said that the driver said if they were going to hold hands on the shuttle bus, they should move to the back. They obliged, not wanting to make a scene, but later asked the driver why he had asked them to do so.

According to a police report, the driver had asked them to go to the back of the bus after they had been holding hands, and when one of them started to sing, reports CBS.

The city of Albuquerque’s Human Rights Office is to look into the incident, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The city’s Mayor Richard Berry, said that he thought the driver’s behaviour was inappropriate.

“We’re out there aggressively making sure this never happens again because this does not belong in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Berry said in an interview with KOB-TV. “This does not reflect Albuquerque, New Mexico, and as the mayor I’m upset about it, and we want to make sure we get to the bottom of it.”

The apology from Standard Parking comes as the New Mexico state Supreme Court is considering a case involving a photography firm which declined to shoot a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple.

Discrimination was alleged by the couple, and their attorney argued that the business openly advertises its weddings services, and as a public business, should follow anti-disrcimination laws.

The attorney acting for business owner Elaine Hugenin said equal marriage went against her religious beliefs, and that she was exercising her right to free speech, as well as artistic freedom.