A taxi driver in New York City has been ordered to pay a lesbian couple $10,000 in damages for telling them to either stop kissing in the back of his cab or get out.
On Sept. 18, 2011, TV executive Christy Spitzer and her dog got into Mohammed Dahbi's cab, and proceeded to pick up her partner, actress Kassie Thornton, who had just returned from traveling. They were headed to Thornton’s home.
Thornton and Spitzer were kissing in the backseat of the cab when Dahbi told them to stop and “save that behavior for the bedroom,” reports The Daily Mail. He also apparently gave them the option of just getting out.
The couple decided to do just that and left the cab. Before doing so, Thornton told Dahbi that he was discriminating against them because they were gay.
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"Don't make me out to be an a--hole," Dahbi said in response.
The couple got out and refused to pay the fare, which led Dahbi to call them “b****es,” “c***s,” and “whores.”
"We felt that what happened to us was wrong and he needed to take responsibility for his actions," Spitzer told DNAinfo New York.
Dahbi claimed at the hearing the couple was kissing “heavily” and “touching all over each other,” and that it was distracting. He told the judge he feared he would have an accident because he could not keep his eyes on the road.
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Spitzer and Thornton both testified that they had only kissed one another with a “peck on the lips.” Spitzer said she had just had massive dental work done and that is how she knows it was a light kiss.
"That’s why I’m so aware of what my behavior was in the taxi," Spitzer said.
Dahbi’s lawyer, Ali Najmi, said his client never referred to the couple’s sexuality and that he was requesting what he does of all his passengers, straight or gay.
"Mr. Dahbi has a standard of decency that he asks all riders in his cab to follow," Najmi said. "He has asked straight couples to stop engaging in similar behavior. It can be very distracting for a driver if people are getting hot and heavy in the taxi."
Judge John Spooner did not agree.
"The more likely reason for [Dahbi] stopping the taxicab and directing Ms. Spitzer and Ms. Thornton to stop kissing was, not that he objected to all kissing, but that he was uncomfortable with two women sharing a romantic kiss," Spooner said.
Dahbi was found guilty of discriminating against the couple over their sexual orientation. He has been ordered to pay $10,000 in damages, attend anti-discrimination training, and pay a $5,000 civil penalty to the city.
Dahbi plans to appeal the decision.
“We will be pursuing an appeal of this decision,” a statement reads on his lawyer’s website. “The Administrative Judge acted unreasonably and made conclusions of fact that cannot be substantiated based on the record. The fine amount is completely unfair given that there was no real injury here.”