Cab driver allegedly ejects gay couple from vehicle after kiss
By Stefano Esposito Staff Reporter October 28, 2013 5:00PM
Matthew McCrea (left) and Steven White are suing a cab company over an alleged incident in May 2013. They say a cab driver kicked them out of his vehicle after the men kissed on a ride to Lake View from O'Hare International Airport. | Sun-Times Files
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:21AM
On a stormy night in May, Steven White and Matthew McCrea were in a cab heading into the city from O’Hare International Airport, sharing a giggle over a silly YouTube video, when McCrea leaned in and kissed his boyfriend.
A moment later, cab driver Jama Anshur began turning the interior lights on and off, telling his passengers, “This is public transportation.” Then, according to the couple, the driver swerved off the Kennedy Expy. and demanded the couple get out — on the shoulder, in the pelting rain.
“My initial reaction was that I was afraid of this man, and I didn’t know what he was thinking,” said White, 29, of West Hollywood, Calif., who at the time was visiting McCrea, a Lake View resident. “Matt’s initial reaction was that we are not getting out of this cab on the expressway.”
On Monday, White and McCrea filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, claiming cabbie Anshur and his company at the time, Sun Taxi, discriminated against them.
Anshur, a cabbie for eight years, told the Chicago Sun-Times he wasn’t kicking out his passengers when he pulled off the freeway. He was annoyed because they wouldn’t stop kissing.
“I told them to stop,” said Anshur. “It was raining. I couldn’t drive with something like that. I have to drive safely because it’s raining.”
The couple deny they were engaged in anything but a very brief kiss. And they say their ordeal didn’t end there.
Anshur then swerved back into traffic, before eventually pulling into a grocery parking lot in Park Ridge, the couple say. White called 311 on his cell phone and was eventually connected to 911. The complaint alleges the cab driver told arriving police that his passengers had been “making sex” in his cab — something White and McCrea strongly deny.
No arrests were made, and the couple got out of the cab and waited for another one to come pick them up.
“It was a scary situation,” said McCrea. “You feel helpless. I can’t control what someone else does. When you see that kind of behavior, you’re nervous [and think], what’s going on here?”
Back in May, a spokesman for Anshur’s cab company, Sun Taxi, said he hadn’t seen the complaint Monday and had no comment.
Jong Lee, Sun Taxi’s general manager, said the cab driver was released “right after the incident.”
Anshur said he’s been treated unfairly. He says he doesn’t like any sort of prolonged smooching — gay or straight — in his cab. And he says his passengers on that May night were rude to him.
“They say, you are the driver,” said Anshur, who said he now drives for Yellow Cab. “Your job is to drive. Turn around and drive.”
Yellow Cab officials were not available to comment.
Though Anshur says he’s not anti-gay, he says he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
“That’s my religion,” Anshur said.
The couple, who have been engaged in their long-distance relationship for about eight months, is, among other things, seeking “compensatory and other damages,” according to the complaint, filed by Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization that advocates for the LGBT community.
“We just hope to bring some attention to this issue in the hopes that it doesn’t happen to other people,” White said. “We’re really lucky that in the State of Illinois, the LGBT community is protected, and so these kinds of things shouldn’t be happening.”
Until the incident in May, the couple hadn’t given much thought to brief displays of affection in public.
“Unfortunately, now I kind of have to think about this stuff,” McCrea said. “I might be a little more cautious about how I act around other people in a cab.”
White says he refuses to change his behavior.
“We’re a couple just like any other couple,” White said.