Airbnb and the Right to Discriminate

Over at Samizdata, Perry de Havilland tells us why he’s cancelling his Airbnb account.  Understandably he objects to being told to sign some pledge stating, among other things, that he will commit to:

treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

Perry’s objection is to being told he is not allowed to judge that which is entirely voluntary on the part of the other party, e.g. their religious views.

I happen to take the rather extreme view that an individual’s freedom to interact and associate with whomsoever they please is paramount and as such discriminatory behaviour ought to be permitted on this principle.  I’ll write more on this shortly.

Back in 2013 there was a case whereby two Christian owners of a B&B in Cornwall refused to allow a gay couple to stay on their premises, citing to do so would conflict with their religious beliefs.  They were sued and lost.  In their defence they said:

“Our B&B is not just our business, it’s our home. All we have ever tried to do is live according to our own values, under our own roof.”

Many people who took the side of the gay couple held the view that the moment somebody charges money and their activity becomes a business, the state must get involved and they no longer have the right to discriminate.

What I have yet to find out is whether they think this ought to apply to prostitutes.

I genuinely think within five years we’ll have seen a case where an escort or prostitute is sued for discrimination, and dating apps and websites are being put under pressure to remove preferences based on race and other criteria.

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4 thoughts on “Airbnb and the Right to Discriminate

  1. My objection is that the content of this email automatically assumes that I am prejudiced. It assumes guilt without evidence and demands compliance in what should be a purely voluntary business relationship. AirBnB can therefore do without my business. I have already ‘reached out’ to them and stated in no uncertain terms that I find this new condition unacceptable.

    For an alternative, VRBO (look them up) provide a much better service.

  2. Perhaps I’ll be able to sue the girls who refuse to date me on the discriminatory grounds that I am an asshole, or is it because I’m not enough of an asshole? Whatever it is, it’s discrimination!

  3. @ Bill Sticker,

    My objection is that the content of this email automatically assumes that I am prejudiced.

    Precisely. It is actually quite rude and presumptuous. I can imagine they struggled over the wording for some time, though. How do you appease people whose demands are constantly shifting and who take offence at everything?

    For an alternative, VRBO (look them up) provide a much better service.

    I’ve actually never used Airbnb, I don’t travel much any more and when I do I usually stay with friends.

  4. @ David,

    Perhaps I’ll be able to sue the girls who refuse to date me on the discriminatory grounds that I am an asshole, or is it because I’m not enough of an asshole?

    Always err on the side of more asshole. The hot girl in college was into the guy with the facial scar and the motorbike who had left a trail of broken hearts behind him, not the guy who would go on to be Brian from Accounts.

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