A company policy against discrimination didn’t keep an Airbnb host from canceling a gay customer’s reservation, claiming LGBT people are “against humanity” — in a city with a progressive reputation, at that.
Buddy Fisher of Houston was using Airbnb to find a place to stay in Austin during the Texas capital’s Pride observance in late August, Houston TV station KHOU reports. He booked a room Wednesday that had an ideal location and great views of the city, and in response to a query about the purpose of his trip, he said he was going to Austin for the Pride festivities.
About an hour later, he got a notice that his reservation was canceled, plus this message from his prospective host: “No LGBT people, please. I do not support people who are against humanity. Sorry.”
“It really, really upset me, because I don’t feel like I don’t support humanity,” Fisher told KHOU.
Airbnb quickly apologized and sent him a list of more options, and he’s still planning the trip. And since the company has a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination of any kind, the person who rejected Fisher’s reservation won’t be allowed to list on the service anymore. But Fisher notes there’s still widespread anti-LGBT discrimination, perhaps as a backlash to progress.
“It felt like we’ve been going in the right direction, but then something like this happens,” he told the TV station. “It’s like you take five steps forward, then two steps back.”
Anti-LGBT housing discrimination remains common, and there is no national law against it — something the Equality Act, pending in Congress, would rectify. And only 22 states ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation (20 include gender identity as well); Texas is not one of them. In states that have these laws, LGBT people file housing discrimination complaints at about the same rate as women and racial minorities, according to a recent Williams Institute study.
Short-term rentals like Airbnb could also be considered public accommodations; only 21 states ban discrimination in this realm based on sexual orientation, with 19 including gender identity too.
But Austin is among the numerous cities that prohibit discrimination in both housing and public accommodations. So Fisher could seek justice by reporting the incident to city government.