A gay D.C. man claims his Lyft driver told him he was “going to burn in hell” after being picked up at the Newseum leaving a new exhibit on the Stonewall riots and the LGBTQ rights movement.
Greg Alexander attended a private dinner opening of the “Rise Up” exhibit on March 7 as a guest of the Washington Blade, which is a sponsor. At about 9 p.m., he says he called the Lyft car service to pick him up at the Newseum. He began talking to the driver, who asked what exhibit he’d seen. Alexander responded, “It’s for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots … which helped launch the gay rights movement.”
Alexander said the driver, identified only as Jeremy, responded, “Gay rights? What is that? Is this a new movement?” before adding, “There is no need for gay rights.”
As the car approached Alexander’s apartment, the driver allegedly said, “Greg, can I ask you something? Has anyone ever told you that God loves you?” The driver then started chanting biblical verses and said, “Please God grant Greg salvation! He needs to accept Jesus Christ as his savior,” Alexander reports.
“I started getting very nervous and felt unsafe,” Alexander told the Blade. When he asked the driver to unlock the door, he replied, “Not until you pray with me.” Alexander refused and opened the door and then asked the driver what he thought would happen to him as a gay man.
“You will burn in hell,” the driver replied, according to Alexander. “God loves everyone but he hates your sin.”
Alexander filed a complaint with Lyft immediately after the incident. He received an automated reply promising a follow-up email once the formal review process was underway but hadn’t heard anything as of Monday. That changed on Tuesday, following online publication of a Blade story about the incident. Alexander said Lyft followed up with him and that the driver had been terminated.
Campbell Matthews, a Lyft communications manager, confirmed the driver’s firing in an email to the Blade. She wrote: “The behavior described is absolutely unacceptable. Safety is our top priority and there is no place in our community for harassment or discrimination of any kind. We have permanently banned the driver from the Lyft platform and reached out to the passenger to offer our support.”
Alexander’s report is similar to another recent report of a Lyft driver verbally attacking a gay customer. A gay man said he filed a complaint with Lyft after one of its drivers ordered him to leave his car on Feb. 16 when the gay passenger mentioned he has a husband.
“On Friday night/Saturday morning at 2:05 a.m. a Lyft driver said ‘please get out of my car’ after hearing ‘my husband,’” Arlington, Va., resident Matt Johnson told the Blade.
“He then reported my ride as a ‘no show,’ which created a $5 charge, despite the pickup occurring in front of my Dupont Circle job (Dupont Italian Kitchen) and with 4 witnesses,” Johnson said in his email.
Johnson provided the Blade with a copy of a statement he received from a representative of Lyft’s Trust and Safety Department in response to his complaint about the incident.
“This sort of behavior by a driver is a violation of our Terms of Service and is something we absolutely do not tolerate in the Lyft community,” said the representative, who identified himself only as Miles. “I can assure you that the concerns you have brought to our attention have been investigated, and I have followed up with this individual to take the appropriate and necessary actions,” the statement says.
Johnson, who also works at the Arlington gay bar Freddie’s Beach Bar, said Lyft reimbursed the $5 charge but didn’t answer his question about what, if any, specific action was taken with the driver, who was identified only as Bryon.
In response to an inquiry from the Blade, Lyft spokesperson Matthews said the company takes reports like this seriously.
“Safety is Lyft’s top priority and there is no place in the Lyft community for discrimination of any kind,” he said. “Immediately upon learning of the incident, we reached out to the driver to find out more and reached out to the passenger to offer support,” Campbell told the Blade in an email.
(Lou Chibbaro Jr. contributed to this report)