While Uber may be trying to court the queer community with gay-friendly advertising, the company keeps showing they’re not a true ally. Over New Year’s Eve, a Houston driver left a gay couple on the Southwest Freeway after they kissed in their Uber. The news went viral — however, Uber’s apparently siding with the driver, citing Uber’s No Flirting rule.
What happened on New Year’s Eve
On New Year’s Eve, Randall Magill and his fiancé Jose Chavez were going to a friend’s home to celebrate the holidays and their recent engagement. The couple say they’d been drinking and wanted to be responsible, so they ordered an Uber. The company sent a minivan with two separate seats separated by an aisle.
The trip was uneventful until Magill leaned over for what he describes as “just a peck on the lips.” According to Chavez, the driver said “I can’t take you no more. I’m going to have to drop you guys off.” The driver pulled off the freeway and left the two men right next to the concrete sound barrier. They had to walk under the interstate bridge to the other side of the Southwest Freeway to call another Uber.
Magill says he’d never had a bad experience with Uber before, though he’ll “never use them again.” He said, “I was super disappointed. Everyone I have ever ridden with has been very nice, very respectful. Even the ones I could tell were not so comfortable with carrying us, they were very respectful.”
According to Uber, both driver and riders reported the incident and are investigating.
Uber’s No Flirting Rule
Uber’s nondiscrimination policy has the standard boilerplate — they prohibit “discrimination against riders or drivers based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law.”
When Houston station KPRC contacted Uber about the incident, Uber sent that along in its comment. However, they also added an excerpt from Uber’s Community Guidelines:
As our community guidelines make clear, you shouldn’t touch or flirt with other people in the car. As a reminder, Uber has a no sex rule. That’s no sexual conduct with drivers or fellow riders, no matter what. And you should never hit or otherwise hurt a driver or fellow passenger.
Uber’s homophobia problem
This incident is far from the first of its kind. A driver in London kicked a couple out for a “brief kiss.” Another couple was thrown out for “a peck” in an Uber trip to San Francisco Pride. And unfortunately, it’s not just Uber. Last month, a Lyft driver kicked RuPaul’s Drag Race star Aja out for kissing his boyfriend.
But this Houston case adds another wrinkle. Leaving a couple on a freeway is dangerous. While the driver shouldn’t have kicked them out in the first place — even though the driver claims he’s kicked straight couples out for kissing, we’re not sure we believe him — he definitely shouldn’t have kicked them out there.
Uber says it’s investigating the incident.
Update (1/4/18): Uber reached out to comment. Kayla Whaling of Uber sent an email, saying “I want to make clear that we don’t tolerate any form of discrimination and have taken the claims described here very seriously.”
Whaling also says Uber reached out to the riders and driver, and have ended the relationship with the driver.
Featured image by sjo via iStock