Citing Religious Beliefs, Cabbies Won't Drive Cars With Ads for Gay Games

Cleveland is hosting the games, but some taxi drivers are not rolling out the red carpet.

(Photo: Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty Images)

Apr 20, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Stephanie Mercado is a journalism student at Cal State-Fullerton and formerly worked at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Gay Games has been a promising vehicle of change for marginalized LGBT athletes—yet 30 years after the sporting event was created, some people in this year's host city of Cleveland are not so welcoming.

Some cab drivers who regularly travel the route between the city and the airport are refusing to drive cabs that bear ads for the August event, citing religious reasons, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Hopkins International Airport said it had been notified by two of the three taxi companies it works with that some of their drivers were objecting to the airport's dedicated taxicab program, in which cabs have Gay Games ads on their rooftop placards.

It's not the first time cabbies have objected to transporting certain passengers, and there has been a recent spate of businesses objecting to serving the LGBT community—an act that is being written into law as a right in some states.

The idea that religious freedom protects the right to be antigay has activists concerned that discrimination is being legalized in some places. Recently in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant approved a measure that allows residents to sue the government over laws that hinder their ability to practice their religion—making the state one of 18 with such "religious freedom" laws.

Other states, such as New Mexico and Colorado, ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in business practices.

Arizona’s S.B. 1062, which would have amended an existing law to allow businesses the right to refuse service if it heavily interfered with an individual’s religious practice, failed to appease its opposition earlier this year because of its indirect targeting of the LGBT community.

Kellie Fiedorek, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, called the bill "a 'balancing test' that would protect all religions and sexual orientations while prohibiting Arizonans from ‘coercing someone to violate their sincerely held beliefs,' ” according to CNN.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in late February.

Back in Cleveland, the airport struck a deal with taxi operators to replace drivers who don't want to work in their 75-cab fleet, working with metered taxis until they can hire permanent drivers for the airport program.

Americab General Manager Patrick Keenan, which operates out of the airport, says he heard complaints from two Muslim drivers who are opting not to drive with Gay Games ads on their cars. But he and the company don't share those views.

"We don't have any objections to the signage," Keenan told the Plain-Dealer. "We're fully supportive of the games. We're not in concert with (the protesting drivers) on that."