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After complaining about a gay-themed ad on some city buses, a driver in Minneapolis has been given official permission not to drive any bus that carries that ad, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Citing the driver's religious beliefs, transit authorities called it a "reasonable accommodation" in an internal memo confirmed Tuesday by the transit agency, the Star Tribune reported.
The driver's union, Amalgamated Transit Unit Local 1005, is contesting the decision, saying the bus agency is condoning intolerance.
Drivers have never been excused from other buses carrying ads they found objectionable, from political candidates to pink bras, the union argues.
The ad in question is for Lavender Magazine, a local LGBT publication. It has run since last year on 50 Minneapolis buses and carries a photo of a young man with the slogan "Unleash Your Inner Gay."
The October 12 memo to dispatchers at the bus garage in Minneapolis listed 25 buses that carry the Lavender ad and said not to give them "under any circumstances" to the complaining driver, a new hire whom they identified only by her employee number.
"Our diversity office determined that we could make a simple, reasonable accommodation on religious ground by not assigning her (the driver) to one of the 25 buses--out of 150--at the Nicollet garage," Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said.
The transit agency has not threatened to pull the ad, Lavender CEO Stephen Rocheford told Gay.com.
But Michelle Sommers, Local 1005's president, said the agency is handling it badly. "If you start saying this or that ad is inappropriate, you're offending other people, and that can create a difficult environment for people to work in," she said.
"We have Muslim employees. Now if there's an ad for alcohol on the side of a bus, should Muslim employees be allowed to not drive that bus? And is the next step that mechanics don't have to work on the bus?" Sommers asked.
Rocheford said the ad's image, picked from 63 choices, was not meant to be provocative--"but anytime you say the word 'gay,' someone is going to make a fuss." So far, he said, the ads have been great for business.
"What would happen if Lavender's building was on fire?" he asked. "Would it be OK for a firefighter not to put it out?" (The Advocate)