A few years ago after a night out in Portland, Kate Neal and her then-girlfriend hailed a cab to take them home. They should have been able to arrive at their destination, pay the fare, and continue on with their lives – but shortly into the ride, the cab driver noticed them holding hands. The driver pulled over and shouted, “You can’t be gay in my cab” and demanded they get out of the car, on the side of a busy highway. Suddenly, a simple cab ride became an act of discrimination.
That was in 2013, but the importance of nondiscrimination protections in public spaces, including taxis, is clearer than ever. What it comes down to, Kate said, is that businesses who claim to serve the public must serve everyone equally. “If you are a business operating in the public sector – like a cab, like a bakery – you cannot refuse service to someone based on something like the color of their skin or a disability they may have or what their sexual orientation happens to be,” Kate said. “If you want to discriminate against someone in that way, you shouldn’t be operating a business in the public sector.”