Alex Iovine (left) and Emma Pichl have been together for two years. | Photo: Alex Iovine/Facebook
The Uber driver who kicked out a lesbian couple for kissing has been cleared by a New York judge and might be on the road again soon.
Emma Pichl, 24, and her girlfriend Alex Iovine, 26, left a bar in Gowanus, Brooklyn last June and called an Uber. Pichl told the New York Post that, during the ride, the couple ‘leaned over and pecked kiss’.
Driver Ahmad El Boutary immediately told them not to kiss in his car and pulled over. The girls then confronted him, shooting a video that Iovine posted on her Facebook page and went viral.
The Uber driver said kissing was ‘illegal’
In the video, the driver tells the couple it is ‘illegal’ to kiss in an Uber. As the girls asked for explanations, the driver simply said they ‘were not allowed’.
Uber has a policy against sexual activity in its cars. It also has a strong anti-discrimination policy that prohibits drivers from refusing service to a passenger 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’.
The couple accused the driver of discrimination
After the couple filed a complaint, El Boutary was charged with anti-LGBTI discrimination. He was also removed from the Uber app and his taxi license suspended.
The driver filed a separate complaint claiming the girls were drunk and behaved inappropriately. Nonetheless, Pichl and Iovine denied all the allegations.
‘Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have been in touch with the rider regarding her experience,’ said a spokesperson for Uber at the time of the incident.
‘We have removed the driver’s access to the app.’
At a hearing on 10 July at New York’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, however, a judge recommended that El Boutary get his license back. The judge also said there wasn’t enough evidence to show that the driver was engaging in discrimination based on the couple’s sexual orientation.
According to the ruling, shared with magazine them. by El Boutary’s attorney Daniel Ackman, the driver testified that he has driven for Uber for four years and has picked up ‘all kinds of people,’ including same-sex couples.
Furthermore, El Boutary told the court that he has ‘no problem at all with, with kissing. I like to kiss. I’m a human being. The thing is, these girls…they went over and over, kissing. Deeply kissing, the touching… [it’s] a car service, not a car for sex. They were about, they were about to [have] sex in the car.’
Uber’s record is far from being clean
The car-sharing company has a controversial history related to discrimination and sexual assault and harassment issues.
Earlier this year, bisexual YouTuber NeonFiona opened up about her experience with a transphobic Uber driver.
Moreover, a CNN investigation surfaced in April found out 103 Uber drivers have raped or sexually assaulted their riders over the past four years.
The company has also been in the spotlight for several sexual assault lawsuits. After Uber engineer Susan Fowley blew the whistle about her own sexual harassment experience, several others came forward claiming the management had ignored them.