Gay couple claims discrimination at Great Wheel; Owners cite unruly behavior



SEATTLE - Two Seattle men say they were kicked off the Great Wheel last weekend because they're gay, but the owners of the waterfront Ferris wheel have a different story about what happened.


Jason Jacobs said he and his boyfriend paid $50 apiece to ride in one of the Great Wheel's VIP gondolas.


But he said they were kicked off and escorted from the pier because they were holding hands and shared a kiss on the ride.


"The door's fully opened," Jacobs said. "He stuck his head in and said, 'You know what, just get off the ride. We don't need your kind. Give me my shirts back. Get your money back.'"


He took to Facebook and Yelp to complain.


"This isn't how Seattle normally treats people," he wrote.  "We don't want this attraction and the management to give Seattle a bad name."


Jacobs is asking people to boycott the Great Wheel.


The owners of the attraction said the two men were not kicked off the ride because they're gay.


In a statement on the Great Wheel's Facebook page, the company said it is "deeply saddened they're being labeled as homophobic," and that the couple was kicked off because of unruly behavior -- putting their shoes up on the leather seats and disrespecting the staff.


"Our company has a long history of serving and employing members of the GBLT community and we are deeply saddened that we are being labeled as homophobic," the company said on its Facebook page. "The two individuals were asked to leave because of their behavior, which included putting their shoes on the leather seats and acting disrespectfully and unruly to our staff. Their behavior delayed the operation of the wheel for several minutes, disrupting the ride for our other passengers."


Jacobs acknowledges he put his foot on the seat, but said he wasn't rude.


"When they were starting to be rude, it was an issue, and I was in shock, and I felt belittled.  And I thought 'This is not happening in Seattle, is it?'"


Jacobs and his boyfriend were refunded their money.


Jacobs said he had ridden the Wheel a couple times before and didn't have any problems.


But he wants an apology and more sensitivity training for the staff.        


The Great Wheel owners said they welcome people from all backgrounds and lifestyles, but reserve the right to refuse service to anyone not following their rules.