NM shuttle firm apologizes for treatment of Tigard gay couple

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. The company that runs the shuttle service to the Albuquerque airport's rental-car center is apologizing after a driver allegedly ordered a Tigard, Ore. gay couple to sit in the back of the shuttle bus.

Standard Parking Inc. said it respects the equal rights of all customers and doesn't tolerate discrimination of any kind. It also said the employee was suspended after the company learned in July of the late June incident.

The men say they haven't heard a direct apology from the company. They've been waiting for six weeks. They also said that the company was still defending the bus driver last week.

Christopher Bowers and Ron McCoy told KATU the bus driver noticed they were holding hands and made them move to the back of the bus.

According to a police report, the driver ordered them to the back when one of them started to sing.

"Really hard for us to get over that emotional, the sadness, the anger," said McCoy, who called the indirect apology half-hearted. "In some ways it makes me feel like what they really regret is the attention they're getting."

The city's Human Rights Office will look into the incident, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said he believed the driver behaved inappropriately.

"We're out there aggressively making sure this never happens again because this does not belong in Albuquerque, New Mexico," Berry told KOB-TV. "This does not reflect Albuquerque, New Mexico, and as the mayor I'm upset about it, and we want to make sure we get to the bottom of it."

The couple is preparing for a legal battle. The New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union has decided to take on their case. The ACLU said what happened was a violation of New Mexico's Human Rights Act, which says businesses cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

KATU's Hillary Lake contributed to this story.