By Daryl Hannah
Marriage equality may be gaining traction across the country—currently same-gender marriage is legal in 31 states—but that doesn’t mean same-gender couples are automatically being treated equally. And unfortunately a gay Houston couple experienced part of that anti-gay discrimination first-hand last week when they were denied a cab ride because of their sexual orientation.
Travis Player and his partner, Andres Orozco, were taking the cab home from a local bar when they shared a kiss in the backseat of the cab. The driver then told the couple that he doesn’t give rides to gay people and told them that they were going to hell.
“The man just turns back to us and tells us that he doesn’t give gay people rides. And he proceeds to tell us we’re going to hell for being gay,” the couple told reporters.
The couple was then kicked out of the cab blocks from their home and forced to walk the rest of the way home.
“…We were expressing our love for each other and for someone else to jump in and clearly state it’s not right, that really did upset me,” Orozco said.
The couple didn’t pay the $6 fair and say the company won’t be getting their business in the future.
After the media furor the Yellow Cab Company issued a statement:
“For over forty years, Yellow Cab has proudly served all communities. We regret that the actions of one of our independent contract drivers took place, and are intently looking into the matter, which was undoubtedly an isolated incident. It is absolutely unacceptable that any passenger ever be denied service because of her or his sexual orientation. Yellow Cab has consistently been a vocal ally of the LGBT community in Houston and does not condone any discrimination whatsoever. No matter who you love, Yellow Cab will be there for you.”
This incident is the latest in a long string of incidents involving cab drivers and LGBT passengers. In August, Cleveland taxi drivers refused to drive cabs that promoted the Gay Games, citing religious reasons, and in May, a Chicago couple allege they were kicked out of a cab because of a kiss they described a “quick peck on the lips.”
“The sad reality is that it is completely legal,” GLBT community advocate Noel Freeman told ABC13.
Freeman also said that knows of 4 other similar stories in Texas: gay couples getting kicked out of Yellow Cab taxis, for being affectionate. Houston did pass an equal rights ordinance that could have protected Player and Orozco, but its legality has been challenged the ordinance currently can’t be enforced. It goes to trial in January.
“There are no laws in the state of Texas that protect people from discrimination in public accommodations like cabs. So someone can be kicked out of a cab because they’re gay, black, [or] because they’re a woman,” Freeman said.
Harassment and discrimination in public places remains a key issue for LGBT Americans. According to a survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
Fifty-three percent (53%) of respondents reported being verbally harassed or
Disrespected in a place of public accommodation, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies. One-fifth said they had been denied equal treatment by a government agency or official.