City investigating case of lesbian couple kicked out of taxi

PORTLAND, Ore. - The City of Portland said it could be a couple weeks before officials wrap up their investigation into whether a cab driver discriminated against a lesbian couple.

Meanwhile, the couple hired a civil-rights attorney over the weekend and plan to take legal action.

Kate Neal and Shanako Devoll said a driver from the Broadway Cab company left them stranded on the side of I-84 early Friday morning after they were affectionate in the taxi on the ride home.

"As being a part of the gay community, I first was very angry," said attorney Nicholas Yanchar. "I just never really had that communication with a driver before with a cab company, so it just kind of set me back and caught me off guard."

Taxis are required by Oregon state law to have working video cameras inside of them.

Yanchar said the video will demonstrate that Devoll and Neal were discriminated against. He also said he wants to hear what Broadway Cab has to say about the incident.

The company said it's investigating the incident, as is the city of Portland.

There's no police report because an officer who helped the women classified it as a civil matter. Now, only police can access a critical piece of evidence from inside the cab: the video camera.

"We will likely be viewing them with the police to try and determine if there are any violations of either of the laws that are enforced by the police or our code," said Kathleen Butler, manager of the Portland Bureau of Revenue.

The case before Butler is twofold: Were Neal and Devoll discriminated against and was their safety jeopardized?

"A driver is required to take all passengers (and) to take them where they need to go," Butler said.

Butler said such discrimination cases are rare and underreported.

"We've had two in the past five years: one that was second-hand and one that there wasn't enough evidence to make a determination," she said.

The city said the driver, who has been suspended both by the company and the city, isn't cooperating with the investigation so far.

"The only way to change and to make a better future for the state of Oregon and for the country is to speak up," Yanchar said.