( Chicago, IL, November 19, 2015 ) Today, Lambda Legal settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of two gay men who were unlawfully forced to exit a taxi after they exchanged a brief kiss. As part of the voluntary settlement, the driver of the taxi has apologized to the men and has agreed to make a donation to a local LGBT-focused charity, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. While the driver of the taxi was immediately barred from driving any Sun Taxi cabs after the incident, Sun Taxi has voluntarily agreed to provide all of its drivers with information about the Illinois Human Rights Act ( "IHRA" ), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations, such as taxis.
"This voluntary settlement affirms that the Illinois Human Rights Act provides vital protections to ensure that all people feel safe when they hail a cab. We're very happy that we were able to resolve this case, not just for our clients, but also to ensure that others are protected in the future," said Kyle Palazzolo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "No one should fear that they might be put in a dangerous situation or kicked out of a place of business simply for displaying affection for the person they care about. We applaud Sun Taxi for taking steps going forward to ensure that any drivers who operate cabs in their affiliation are provided with information to help make them aware of what the Illinois law requires of them, and we hope that other taxi companies and similar businesses will do the same."
On May 30, 2013, Steven White and Matthew McCrea were leaving O'Hare International Airport and secured a taxi outside of the airport terminal. Shortly after entering the cab, White and McCrea exchanged a brief kiss, after which the cab driver flashed the interior lights on and off. The driver then pulled over to the shoulder of the John F. Kennedy Expressway and demanded that White and McCrea get out of the cab. It was raining and late in the evening, and the couple refused to exit. Instead, they called 311, the city's municipal information number. The driver then abruptly re-entered the expressway and sped towards the nearest exit, prompting the operator to transfer the couple's call for help to 911. The driver exited the expressway, stopped in a parking lot and again demanded the couple get out of the cab. The couple was told by the 911 operator that a police officer would be sent to meet them. The couple remained in the cab until the officer arrived, at which time, they exited and waited for another taxi to pick them up.
"I am truly sorry for my actions that night and any distress that I may have caused Mr. McCrea and Mr. White," said Jama Anshur, the driver of the cab. "I am glad that this case has been resolved. Everyone who gets into a taxi deserves to be treated fairly, equally and with respect."
"Even though getting kicked out of the cab was frightening and should not have happened, I'm relieved to think that this lawsuit could help prevent this from happening to someone else in Illinois," said Steven White. "No one should be treated the way we were, just for exchanging a kiss."
Litigating the case on behalf of Matthew McCrea and Steven White are Kyle Palazzolo, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal, along with Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal.