Northeast Portland

Company working to get permits for gay-friendly cab service

Company working to get permits for gay-friendly cab service »Play Video
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PORTLAND, Ore. – A Portland attorney is representing a company that wants to start a gay-friendly cab company in the city.

The company is called Rainbow Cab and ironically the city turned down its license application Wednesday, which was the day before two lesbians said a Broadway Cab driver kicked them out of his cab because they were gay.

Leora Coleman-Fire, the attorney representing Rainbow, said the city denied the permits because of a moratorium on all taxi cab permits.

"It really didn't feel like a specific, 'We don't want you here' or 'We don't want you to get these permits,' but more of a decision we made that nobody is going to have taxi cab permits right now," she said.

Since the city's put a moratorium on any new cab company permits, Rainbow may instead seek city permission to start a town car service. The earliest that could happen is after a September hearing.

The company isn't allowed to advertise because it doesn't have its license yet. That means it doesn't yet have a website. But it is registered with the Oregon secretary of state's office.

Like the lesbian couple who say they were discriminated against by a cab driver, Coleman-Fire said she's also had a bad cabbie experience because of her sexual orientation and knows something of the fear Kate Neal and Shanako Devoll experienced last week.

She believes these incidents often go unreported. In fact, she didn't report what happened to her.

Coleman-Fire said she had just married her partner two years ago when they got in a cab headed for Portland International Airport and their honeymoon.

The chatty cab driver asked if the two were sisters.

"And I said, 'You know, actually, we're a couple and we just got married and we're going to Ireland on our honeymoon,'" Coleman-Fire said. "And the cab driver looked in the rearview mirror, kind of squinted his eyes, and it was dead silence for the rest of our ride."

That's one reason she wants to help the people who want to start a gay-friendly Portland cab company.

"That incident (last week's) kind of confirmed that, yes, something is happening out there that isn't good and isn't positive for people in the LGBTQ community," she said.

Coleman-Fire is glad Portland's taxi board may require new cab driver training in treating every customer with respect.

"I think that this incident has certainly pushed the board to take that seriously and to think about instituting something like that now, and I think that that's a great idea," she said.

Coleman-Fire didn't file a complaint at the time because she was more focused on getting on with her honeymoon and new marriage and just wanted to put the episode behind her.

The city says it could be a couple of weeks before it wraps up its investigation into the cab driver. It is looking at video recorded in the cab.

The city is looking to see if Kate Neal and Shanako Devoll were discriminated against and if their safety was jeopardized.

The city suspended the driver's license and Broadway Cab suspended him from work. The driver could face a fine and a permanent loss of his cab permit.