Lyft driver kicks gay couple out of his car for kissing because he ‘can’t have that in my car’
Lyft is facing accusations of homophobia after a driver in Indiana kicked a gay couple out of his car for sharing a brief kiss.
Ben Martella and Alec Jansen, two students at universities in Indianapolis, used the ride-sharing app Lyft to travel across the city on May 5.
However, after the driver spotted them sharing a brief kiss, he ordered the pair out of the car at an intersection.
The pair said they were ‘stunned and upset’ by the incident, adding that it was only a small and brief kiss.
“We basically pecked, nothing out of the ordinary,” Martella told the Indy Star.
“He looked in his rearview mirror. He was yelling. We were stunned. We didn’t know the reason for it.
“[The driver] said, ‘I’m going to end your ride. I can’t have that in my car. I don’t have that here.’ I was really upset. It was a big reaction for such a small display of affection between two guys.”
Jansen added: “We gave each other a short kiss on the lips. I was just surprised the whole thing happened. It just didn’t seem like it was real.”
After Martella complained to Lyft, the app refunded the couple and stated that appropriate action had been taken against the driver.
Lyft refused to go into detail when asked for more information by Martella, but later told the Indy Star that the driver had been “deactivated” and banned from the ride-sharing platform.
Lyft drivers are classified as independent contractors instead of employees, and it is unclear if Lyft carried out a formal investigation process prior to the “deactivation”.
Martella and Jansen were not satisfied by this, and are now considering taking the incident to the state branch of the ACLU.
Indiana is one of a large number of states who do not have state-wide anti-discrimination protections explicitly for LGBT people.
Former Governor Mike Pence instead enacted a religious freedom bill in 2015, which contradicted existing anti-discrimination legislation in local areas of the state, including Indianapolis.
A report released by Human Rights Watch in February condemned the expansion of so-called religious freedom bills and the lack of protection for LGBT people.
Human Rights Watch stated: “The failure of most states to enact nondiscrimination protections and the growing number of religious exemption laws leave many LGBT people with little recourse when they encounter discrimination.”
It is not the first time that Lyft and its rival apps have faced homophobia allegations.
Jay Rivera appeared on Season 9 of Logo reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race as the drag queen Aja.
The professional drag queen, who finished in seventh place on All-Stars 3 was allegedly discriminated against during a ride with Lyft.
Rivera’s partner, who goes by the name Lizard Lemon, took to Twitter to make the allegation.
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He said: “Me and @ajaqueen were told to get out a @lyft for being gay. Not kidding. The driver asked us to leave after kissing. In New York City. Really really disappointing”.
After angry Drag Race fans barraged the company with complaints, Lyft reached out to the couple – asking them to officially report the incident.
Within hours, a spokesperson confirmed that the driver involved had been blocked from using the platform.
A spokesperson for Lyft said: “We have zero tolerance for any type of discrimination on our platform, and are committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community.”