A DRIVER with major minicab firm Addison Lee has been suspended while he is investigated for allegedly kicking out a gay couple from his cab after they held hands.
The men were being driven home by the driver who allegedly called them "dirty" before he ordered them to get out of the taxi. The driver was suspended after one of the passengers, Liam Kelly, wrote about the incident on Wednesday in a post on Twitter, which led to the firm receiving a string of angry messages.
The driver was soon identified from a photo of his taxi's number plate, which Mr Kelly also posted. He alleged in a Tweet: "Just been ejected from an @AddisonLeeCabs taxi for being gay. Thanks for the homophobic treatment." In another Tweet he said: "My BF and I got into a taxi from G-A-Y Late. Started holding hands and were told to get out, and called dirty."
Later he wrote: "Thank you to everyone for your messages of support, they mean a lot. We're home now, after a very nice black taxi journey."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the LGBT rights charity Stonewall, said: "On the face of it this is a clear breach of the Equality Act and it's very disturbing. There's no evidence that these two men were doing anything different to what many other loving couples do in the back of cabs.
"If the facts are as proved, these two young men are entitled to go to the county courts."
He added: "This gives a very disturbing message to lots of people who come to London, both to work and as tourists, who imagine that it's a twenty-first century metropolis, and that they'll be treated accordingly."
Twitter users were quick to condemn the company for the driver's treatment of the couple, with many pledging to stop using the service altogether. Jo Little-King posted: "Looks like I won't be getting a contract with @AddisonLeeCabs for my day-job business after all," while Phil Holmes wrote: "Sigh, don't need to go to Russia 4 homophobia".
An Addison Lee spokeswoman said: "We are aware of an incident involving an Addison Lee vehicle in London last night. This incident is being investigated thoroughly, and the driver has been suspended from duty while the investigation takes place. We are also in contact with the customer to understand more about what happened.
"Addison Lee does not tolerate any form of discrimination. We pride ourselves in delivering the highest possible level of professional service, and we take matters like this very seriously."
The case echoes one in Portland, Oregon, last month, where a lesbian couple were evicted from a taxi on a motorway late at night. That driver lost his licence today, following an investigation into the incident.
This is not the first time that Addison Lee, London's biggest private hire firm, has been caught up in controversy. Last year its chairman John Griffin published a column in his company's magazine, Add Lib, which implied that running over cyclists might be acceptable because they were untrained beginners.
Griffin also urged his 3,500 drivers to flout the law and drive in bus lanes, putting cyclists at risk. The call to arms sparked a two year court battle for access to the lanes.
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