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An Uber driver is being investigated after he kicked two women out of his vehicle after they shared a quick kiss in the backseat during a ride.

The couple, Alex Iovine, 26, and Emma Pichl, 24, who live in New York City and have been dating for two years, ordered an Uber after attending a friend’s birthday party in Brooklyn last weekend. They jumped in the car and started the ride, talking during the journey and sharing a quick kiss at one point.

“The middle seat was open. We were just having a conversation throughout the ride and, at one point, we leaned over into the middle and peck-kissed,” Iovine told CNN. “That’s genuinely all it was.”

Soon after they kissed, the Uber driver pulled over and opened the passenger door, telling the couple to get out. An argument then ensued between the couple and the driver, some of which was capture on video:

The driver said that kissing was “illegal” and “you don’t do that here in the car.” Later adding that “it’s disrespectful.”

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has suspended the driver’s license while the incident is investigated. Uber has removed the driver’s access to the app.

Although it’s not illegal to kiss in an Uber, Uber’s Community Guidelines state that riders “shouldn’t touch or flirt with other people in the car… no sexual conduct between drivers and riders, no matter what.”

The New York Daily News identified the driver as Ahmed Elbotari, who’s been licensed since 2014. He told the Daily News that the couple were performing other uncivil acts that led to him to boot them from his car — including one smelling another’s armpit, playing loud videos on their phones and putting their feet on the seats. Elbotari has a 4.67 rating on Uber and has given more than 4,000 rides with no previous incidents reported.

“We would never disrespect someone else’s car in such manner and we always handle ourselves appropriately in public,” Iovine told the Daily News. Uber refunded the women’s $15 fare.

Still, the Daily News reports that even though Elbotari would eject a straight couple for kissing “he acknowledged he has less tolerance for a same-sex couple.”

“Uber does not tolerate any form of discrimination, and we have been in touch with the rider regarding her experience,” an Uber spokesperson told TPG. “We are investigating and we have removed the driver’s access to the app.”

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi even chimed in on the incident telling the New York Post that the driver doesn’t belong on Uber.

“This is an open society and Uber is a platform that is available to anybody regardless of your background, your orientation, and that is sacred to us,” said Khosrowshahi. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance and we will do everything we can for that not to repeat.”

This isn’t the first time a gay couple has been refused service by an Uber driver. Earlier this year a couple was left on the side of a highway after kissing in the backseat. In 2016, a similar incident occurred in San Francisco.

Uber also has a clear non-discrimination policy:

Uber and its affiliates therefore 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.


Featured image by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images.

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