When Christina Spitzer gave her girlfriend a kiss in the backseat of a cab, she wasn’t expecting the driver to demand the couple knock it off or leave.
“Keep that for the bedroom or get out of the cab,” New York City taxi driver Mohammed Dahbi told Spitzer and her girlfriend, Kassie Thorton. (Full disclosure: Spitzer is an employee of Pivot, TakePart’s sister company.)
That comment will cost Dahbi. After filing a complaint alleging discrimination against the couple’s sexual orientation, the women finally received their day in court in March, more than three years after the 2011 incident. A few weeks later, the residing judge recommended a ruling in their favor, awarding $5,000 in damages to each of the women, slapping a $5,000 fine on the city, and requiring an antidiscrimination course for Dahbi.
“The recommendation…for him to undergo some human rights training [is] for us the ultimate reward,” Spitzer told TakePart.
Under New York state law, public and private businesses are prohibited from refusing service based on sexual orientation. Yet, in Spitzer’s opinion, Dahbi doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Dahbi’s lawyer, Ali Najmi, claims that the driver often told heterosexual couples to quit fooling around in his cab because they were distracting him from driving. “My client never once mentioned anything about their sexuality and never threw them out of the taxi,” Najmi told the New York Post.
The women exited the cab after Dahbi’s comment and refused to pay the fare, after which he drove away hurling expletives at them.
Upset over how they were treated, the women contacted the Commission on Human Rights, which filed a complaint with New York City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings. Dahbi’s rebuttal response puts the blame on Spitzer and Thorton. He alleged the women made offensive comments about his ethnicity, and that they practically disrobed during the drive.
“We’re not the type of people who would ever use that type of language or even think that way, or behave in the way that he claims we did,” said Spitzer.
While Dahbi claimed the couple was so entangled they were distracting him from driving, Spitzer is certain she wasn’t able to give her partner more than a simple peck on the lips. Spitzer had just had some serious dental work don,e and a full-on make-out session wasn’t in the cards, owing to what she calls “severe mouth trauma.”
Dahbi’s response made the women even more determined to continue with their case. “At that point, we just said that we’re going to continue to pursue this no matter what,” said Spitzer.
Because the case went through an administrative court, it’s up to the Human Rights Commission to make the final decision, potentially altering the decision or the amount of damages. However, the now-engaged couple isn’t too concerned about receiving payment.
“This has never been about any money,” said Spitzer. “We just want him to know that he did was wrong.”