A gay couple from Portland who were told to move to the back of a shuttle bus in Albuquerque after the driver saw them holding hands have gotten the formal apology they asked for — but they're not convinced it's a genuine mea culpa.
Ron McCoy and his partner Chris Bowers say they flew into Albuquerque International Sunport on June 28, just two days after the Supreme Court issued landmark rulings in favor of marriage equality. When the couple boarded an airport shuttle to pick up their rental car, they say they sat down toward the front of the bus and took one another's hand. That's when the driver reportedly told them, "If you're going to do that, you're going to the back of the bus." The couple complied, but asked the driver to explain his actions after the bus had reached its destination.
When McCoy told the driver he thought they'd been sent to the back of the bus because the driver didn't like the men holding hands, he says the driver replied by saying "You're telling on yourself."
On Tuesday the company that runs the shuttle service, Standard Parking, issued a formal apology.
"We sincerely apologize to Mr. Bowers and Mr. McCoy for any disrespectful treatment they received in New Mexico," the statement opens. "Standard Parking respects the equal rights of all customers, and we do not condone or tolerate discrimination of any kind against any of our customers or employees, whether relating to sexual orientation, gender, age, race, nationality or religion."
"The employee in question was suspended immediately upon our learning of the incident in early July, and we required that he and our entire transportation staff repeat our sensitivity training protocol," continued the letter. "This unfortunate incident reinforces our commitment to emphasizing employee sensitivity training throughout our organization. Again, our sincere apologies to Mr. Bowers and Mr. McCoy."
McCoy credits another passenger on the shuttle for standing up for the couple and verifying their version of events to police. "If it wasn't for Bernadette — one lone person speaking up — we would not have this apology," McCoy told Portland's KATU TV.
But McCoy said Standard Parking's apology, which was delivered publicly but not directly to the couple, is half-hearted.
"In some ways it makes me feel like what they really regret is the attention they're getting," McCoy told KATU.
Watch KATU's report below.