A lesbian couple in New York City said they were booted from an Uber over the weekend for sharing a “peck kiss” in the backseat.
Alex Iovine, 26, and her girlfriend, Emma Pichl, 24, said the ordeal began on Saturday evening after they’d ordered an Uber to take them from Brooklyn to Manhattan. As they were crossing the Manhattan bridge, Iovine said the couple leaned over to share a quick kiss.
“We were sitting on opposite sides of the car,” Iovine recalled to the New York Daily News. “We leaned in for a peck, and that’s what it was, a legit peck.”
Once over the bridge, Iovine said the driver suddenly pulled over and told the women to get out of the car. Iovine said she began filming the confrontation on her phone.
“It is illegal,” the driver is seen telling the couple in the cellphone video, obtained by WABC-TV. “It is disrespectful.”
“Kissing is not illegal,” the women protested.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” the driver said. “Just get out of my car.”
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission identified the driver as Ahmad El Boutari, reported WABC-TV. A spokesman said the commission was investigating the incident.
“The blatantly discriminatory behavior described by the complainant is repugnant,” said the spokesman.
Uber is also investigating the case and said it had suspended the driver’s access to its app, The Associated Press reported.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the New York Post on Monday that drivers like El Boutari “don’t belong on Uber.”
“This is an open society and Uber is a platform that is available to anybody regardless of your background, your orientation, and that is sacred to us,” Khosrowshahi said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance and we will do everything we can for that not to repeat.”
El Boutari told the Daily News that the couple had been acting “crudely” in his car even before the kiss. He claimed that one woman “forced the other to smell her armpit, they played loud videos on their phones [and] one put her feet on his seat.”
“I don’t give a shit about them. I did what I believe is my freedom,” the 35-year-old told the paper.
El Boutari added that he would have acted similarly if it had been a straight couple, though he admitted that he has “less tolerance” for same-sex couples.
Iovine refuted El Boutari’s recollection of the incident, telling the Daily News that “we would never disrespect someone else’s car in such manner and we always handle ourselves appropriately in public.”
The couple said they were deeply shaken by the incident, which occurred during Pride Month.
“Honestly, we were scared and shocked, mostly shocked, because we have never experienced that type of prejudice, especially in New York City,” Iovine told NBC News.