Settlement in Gays to the Back of the Bus Case
A settlement has been reached in a case where recently a Short Line bus driver demanded musician Ari Gold (pictured) and his same-sex partner sit at the back of the bus because he found the fact they were holding hands offensive.
On July 10, Gold along with his boyfriend boarded the Short Line bus traveling from the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal to Monticello, New York. They were journeying to the Catskills to spend time with Mr. Gold’s family. They were sat near the front of the bus, listening to music and holding hands. When the incident occurred, Gold took to Facebook to report events almost in real time, documenting how the bus driver demanded the couple sit toward the back of the bus and how when they refused to move he pulled the bus over and called in the police. The police came, found nothing untoward and duly left. The driver, though non too pleased, then continued the journey. Gold’s story was later coroborated by a number of passengers. You can read more on that in our original coverage here.
The parent company of Short Line acted swiftly, quickly announcing an investigation and apologizing for the driver’s actions.
Lambda Legal has since mediated a settlement with the company.
Following Lambda Legal’s demand letter to Short Line Bus Company on behalf of Ari Gold, who was harassed by a driver for holding his boyfriend’s hand, Short Line Bus Company has confirmed it has appropriately disciplined the driver and pledged to conduct antidiscrimination training for all the company’s drivers.
“Lambda Legal is always prepared to go to the courts when members of the LGBT community face discrimination, but we’re pleased when it doesn’t have to come to that,” said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal’s Deputy Legal Director. “We congratulate Short Line Bus Company for doing the right thing and training all drivers to prevent discrimination. We hope the company is a model for other businesses. Short Line’s swift and serious response shows this company knows that doing the right thing is also good business.”
After several telephone and email exchanges, on August 5, Lambda Legal received both oral and written confirmation from Short Line Bus Company of measures it has committed to taking throughout the company to address discrimination. The company reiterated its commitment to nondiscrimination laws and said that the driver has been disciplined and would also receive sensitivity training and training on nondiscrimination laws. The company will also mandate further antidiscrimination training for all its drivers, including annual “refreshers.” Lambda Legal is providing input on the training plan. The company also apologized for the behavior Mr. Gold and his boyfriend experienced, and will refund the cost of their tickets.
Ari Gold is quoted as saying this case is important because, while he was able to use his position to publicize the blatant discrimination, these kinds of incidents happen frequently and many pass without challenge:
“I am so grateful to Lambda Legal for helping me use my platform as a singer/songwriter and activist to bring attention to an issue that happens way too often to people whose voices don’t get heard enough. I am even more pleased that something that was initially very negative to experience has turned into something positive because of the actions taken by Short Line Bus Company to ensure that something like this will not happen again. I hope more corporations will follow suit. Maybe in the future all corporations will be held responsible for implementing their own sensitivity/harassment training and not wait for another person’s civil rights to be violated.”