Ron McCoy and his partner Chris Bowers were in for a rude welcoming in Albuquerque, when they flew in to attend the LGBT PrideFest in June.
Coming in from Portland, Ore., McCoy and Bowers boarded an airport shuttle holding hands when they arrived on June 28, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.
When the driver of the shuttle bus saw them holding hands, he allegedly became disgusted.
“I saw him look at us, look down at his hands and he looked so angry,” McCoy told KRQE. “He just blurted out at me, he goes, ‘Okay, if you’re going to do that, you’re going to the back of the bus.’”
The couple complied, not wanting to make trouble as soon as they arrived in a new city. When they got to their destination, however, they asked the driver why he made them move to the back.
“I said, ‘I think it was because you didn't like the fact that I was holding my partner's hand.’ He goes, ‘See, now you're telling on yourself.’ My partner responds, 'Well, that's discrimination,' and the driver responds, ‘You're telling on yourself again,’” McCoy said.
The driver, who works for an independent firm called Standard Parking contracted by the airport to provide transportation to rental car lots, apparently thought the couple should be secretive about their relationship.
A native of Albuquerque jumped in to defend them.
“I told the bus driver that I was completely appalled that anybody would be treated this way,” said Bernadette Aguirre.
“And the driver looks back at us and goes, 'I'll show you what's appalling,' and he points to us,” McCoy said.
“First and foremost, it is absolutely unacceptable. We immediately got in touch with Standard Parking to assess what exactly happened. They acknowledged this was a mistake on the part of the driver.”
McCoy and Bowers say they never received any apology for the incident. They have since filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union.
“First and foremost, it is absolutely unacceptable,” said Don Jiron, a spokesman for the airport. “We immediately got in touch with Standard Parking to assess what exactly happened. They acknowledged this was a mistake on the part of the driver.”
Standard Parking told KRQE that the driver got “carried away,” but they didn’t consider what he did to be discrimination.
The driver has worked for the company for 10 years and has no history of disciplinary problems.