PORTLAND, Ore. - Two Portland women say their cab ride was cut short when the driver kicked them out and left them on the side of Interstate 84.
Why did the driver do that? The women say it was because they are a same-sex couple.
Kate Neal and Shanko Devoll said it all started when they were trying to be responsible by taking a cab home after a night out with friends. But they said that cab ride was anything but pleasant.
"I guess he discovered that we were a couple," Neal said. "We were showing some affection towards each other. And he started shouting some pretty hurtful and homophobic things. And then he proceeded to pull over on the freeway and let us out of the cab."
"I didn't realize at first what was happening, but the more he yelled, the more clear it became," Neal added.
"When he initially pulled over I said 'I do want to get out of this cab, but I don't want to get out of this cab here," Neal said. "And he would not move farther. We had no choice."
So they got out of the cab - a few miles from home - and were left there alone and in the dark. They said they had every intention of paying their fare, but didn't.
"We were planning to pay for a cab ride home - that's why we called a cab," said Neal.
The couple said that a second Broadway Cab showed up, they got in and then that driver kicked them out after speaking with the other driver.
At that point, they had to walk. Instead of heading along I-84 with cars and trucks whizzing by, they decided to climb an embankment and scale a fence.
The women said they made it to Northeast 102nd Avenue and flagged down an officer. They said the police officer told them that he had actually been looking for them - that he had been dispatched to find two women who had skipped out on their cab fare.
A Portland Police Bureau spokesman told us this isn't a criminal case, but the officer involved did handle it as a civil matter.
"He picked us up and called the cab company and told them that we were not to pay the fare and that he was going to take us home," said Neal. "And he did - he drove us home."
The City of Portland is investigating the driver. Regulatory Division Manager Kathleen Butler told KATU the driver has refused to talk to the city so far. The city has not yet reviewed security cameras from the cab. Butler says the case will be turned over to police if there is evidence of a hate crime.
Details about what happened quickly made their way onto Facebook and there is now an outcry developing on social media about the alleged incident. Everyone from friends of the couple to people who don't even know them have sent messages to the cab company (Broadway Cab) on their Facebook page.
Broadway Cab's Facebook page initially included a rainbow, which is commonly associated with the LBGTQ community. Hours later, though, the photo was changed, some angry comments about what had allegedly happened had been deleted and the cab company's president posted the following statement:
We are aware of a recent incident where allegations have been made regarding a driver’s comments and actions toward a couple riding in a taxicab. We are investigating this incident. The City of Portland has also opened their own independent investigation and Broadway Cab is cooperating fully with them. The involved driver’s authority to operate has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. At this time, we cannot comment on any other specifics regarding the incident or investigation.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that Broadway Cab is fully committed to the concept and practice of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, and diversity. This includes any form of discrimination based upon an individual’s sexual orientation. We take allegations of discrimination very seriously.
Broadway Cab is – proudly – one of the most diverse businesses around. We are diverse in every conceivable way –national origin, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identification and political affiliation, to name a few. We celebrate diversity every day. Discrimination should not, cannot and will not be tolerated.
Thank you to the LGBTQ community for your on-going support of Broadway Cab.
Broadway Cab did not return any of the messages we left with them Friday afternoon.
"There's definitely been some concern in the community," Neal said. "And people have expressed their desire for them to acknowledge it, to say anything, and instead they have so far chosen to not say anything."
Meanwhile, the couple said they are working with an attorney and are also waiting to see whether Broadway Cab will take some action.
"People assume that this kind of thing doesn't happen and unfortunately it does," Neal said. "If people don't start standing up and making it known, and fighting for the right thing, then we're going to stay stuck in the status quo, which obviously isn't too fun."
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