Gay couple told to sit in back of bus for holding hands


by CNN

Posted on August 5, 2013 at 1:56 PM

(CNN) – A gay couple says a shuttle bus driver in Albuquerque, NM told them to sit in the back of the bus because they were holding hands.

Ron McCoy and his partner, Chris Bowers, flew into Albuquerque from Portland, OR on June 28. Their arrival came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court made its historic rulings for same-sex couples, and the day before Albuquerque's "Pride Fest."

The couple was in New Mexico for a long-awaited road trip through the Southwest, but their excitement soon died, McCoy said.

The couple sat in front of a shuttle bus holding hands, when the driver, McCoy said, discriminated against them.

"I saw him look at us, look down at his hands and he looked so angry. He just blurted out at me, "He goes, 'OK if you're going to do that," McCoy said. "You're going to the back of the bus."

The couple did not want any trouble, and obeyed the driver's command. They did ask the driver why he had them move once the shuttle stopped.

"I said ‘I think it was because you didn't like the fact that I was holding my partner's hand.' He goes, ‘see now you're telling on yourself.' My partner responds, ‘well that's discrimination.' And the driver responds, ‘you're telling on yourself again,'" said McCoy.

Witness Bernadette Aguirre stepped in between the couple and the driver.

"I told the bus driver that I was completely appalled that anybody would be treated this way," said Aguirre.

McCoy said the driver responded by telling what he thought was appalling, and pointed at the couple.

The owner of the shuttles, Sunport, was embarrassed by the driver's behavior. Sunport shuttles are contracted out by a private company, Standard Parking.

"First and foremost, it's absolutely unacceptable," said Sunport spokesperson Dan Jiron. "We immediately got in touch with Standard Parking to assess what exactly happened. They acknowledged this was a mistake on the part of the driver."

McCoy says no one has attempted to apologize to him or Bowers, and says neither he nor his partners have any closure from the upsetting experience. When the couple traveled home, they had a different shuttle driver and travel went without incident as they held hands.

The couple has since filed a complained with the American Civil Liberties Union. A company manager from Standard Parking said the driver was inappropriate and got "carried away."

The company is now requiring all drivers to take sensitivity training.