A driver at one of Northern Ireland’s biggest taxi companies faces disciplinary action after he was accused of kicking two gay men out of his cab for kissing in the back seat.
FonaCab has apologised for the incident, which saw one of its drivers order the men and their friends out of his vehicle at the side of the road on Tuesday night.
Mark McLoughlin (19) has told of his shock at being told to “get the f*** out” after his friend, Stuart McDonald, kissed him on the cheek and neck.
The men were travelling to a city centre nightclub at about 11.30pm from their student halls at Queen's University, where they are first year students.
Mr McLoughlin said: “We rang for two taxis to take us to the Kremlin from Elms Village. The other taxi arrived at the Kremlin no problem and we got into the second.
“My friend Stuart kissed me on the cheek and then on the neck and the taxi driver must have seen us through the glass because he said, ‘Stop that, I'm not having that in my taxi'.
“He pulled over on the Malone Road and we said, ‘Are you serious? You can't do that, it's illegal'. He said, ‘Yes, get out now, I don't care'.”
The four were so shocked they didn't move until the driver, who was aged in his 50s or 60s, told them to “get the f*** out”.
They then called FonaCab to complain while flagging down another taxi.
The firm, which operates a 500-strong fleet across Belfast, issued a swift apology to Mr McLoughlin yesterday.
Ironically, the company was the official taxi partner for last year's Belfast Pride festival.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, FonaCab business development manager Simon Kitchen said: “FonaCab are an equal opportunities employer and have a stringent equality and diversity policy. We take pride in offering services to the entire community and are a sponsor of Belfast Pride.
“We are aware of an alleged incident taking place and are conducting an internal investigation. It would be unfair at this time to comment as the investigation is still ongoing.
“We certainly would not condone this type of behaviour in any circumstance and would not tolerate this within our organisation.”
Mr McLoughlin, who is from Newry and studies Psychology at Queen's, said he had sought advice from the Equality Commission Northern Ireland, but that he was satisfied with the way FonaCab had handled it.
“I know FonaCab aren't a bad company, it was just this one driver,” he added.
Previous cases of discrimination against gay people:
- The Christian owners of a guesthouse in Cornwall were ordered to pay £3,600 damages for turning away a gay couple in 2008. Hazelmary and Peter Bull had refused to let civil partners Steven Preddy and Martyn Hall stay in a double room.
- Jonathan Williams and James Bull were thrown out of a London pub for kissing in 2011, when the landlady removed them for being “obscene”. The incident prompted hundreds of people to descend on the pub for mass gay 'kiss-in' in protest.