Airbnb Launches Investigation After Dallas Host Denies LGBTQ Couple

Host suspended by Airbnb who says they're investigating and have a 'strict nondiscrimination policy'

NBC Universal, Inc.

Airbnb is investigating a Dallas-based host after a prospective guest said he was denied from booking due to his sexual orientation.

"Love trying to book a [Airbnb] with my bf in Dallas and having this be the response to our booking," Curtis Kimberlin Jr. posted on Twitter. Accompanying the tweet was a screenshot where the host responded to his message with "So I'll be hosting two men sleeping together…right?"

According to Kimberlin, a Dallas native, the man denied their Airbnb request shortly after.

"I was shocked for sure, but I am also somewhat used to having to hide certain parts of myself to calm conservative folks' reactions to my identities," Kimberlin told NBC 5. "I wasn’t completely surprised, more so disappointed."

After Kimberlin posted the exchange on social media, readers called on the company to take action. In a statement to NBC 5, Airbnb said the host had been suspended from the platform as they launch an investigation into the matter. Additionally, Airbnb reached out to the guests impacted.

"We enforce a strict nondiscrimination policy, and when a potential violation of this policy is brought to our attention, we investigate and take action, up to removal from our community," the company said in a statement.

The host, who wished to not be identified and requested to be referred to as Pete, told NBC 5 that he will no longer open his home to short-term rentals following his suspension from the Airbnb platform.

In an interview Thursday with NBC 5, Pete said the rental request was not denied because the couple was gay, but that he says he was unable to access the couple's reviews and grew concerned for his safety. He shared text messages that read, "I don't like the idea you are using others’ reviews. I'm confused so I will decline."

He said Airbnb does not do background checks on guests and he is always extra careful when accepting rentals. "I'm on a fixed income, live alone and worry about my security," Pete said.

Pete added that he held "23 perfect reviews and five stars across the board," and confirmed Airbnb's investigation is ongoing without a final resolution.

Last month, Airbnb released a six-year update on their work to fight discrimination and make the company more inclusive. Airbnb has also previously stated that hosts "may not decline guests based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Kimberlin said Airbnb did reach out, though their response was what he described as "corporate."

"They basically said, 'We will look into this,' and left it at that," Kimberlin said. "There was no follow-up from Airbnb to let us know what actions they took in response beyond their initial response once my tweet went viral. I truly wonder what would have happened had I not tweeted about it."

In response to Kimberlin's tweet, Hilton hotels and even other Airbnb hosts reached out in support and their own offers.

"Curtis – if you and your partner still need help with a stay, we got you," Hilton said in a tweet.

"If you ever need to come back to Dallas, I would gladly host you and your bf!" one Twitter user responded with a link to their Bishop Arts listing.

Kimberlin and his partner accepted free accommodations from Hilton and said the company was very kind to him and his partner during the planning process. They will move forward with plans to visit the Dallas area this weekend for a wedding and try to put the negative experience behind them.

"We're going to show him Buc-ee's. I'm really excited I get to introduce him to my mom," said Kimberlin. "It's going to be a good time."

Despite their unfortunate experience, Kimberlin said he and his partner will gladly continue to visit Dallas, his hometown.

"Dallas will always be home to me! I went to college in Dallas and my entire family is from the area," he said. "I have no ill will toward Dallas and know that this does not fully represent Dallas. I know where I can be my full self in Dallas and where I have to hide certain elements of myself and this was just an unfortunate moment."

Still, he said the ordeal has caused him to reflect and recommit to standing firmly on who he is.

"If you are uncomfortable with people who look differently than you or have different identities than you, then don't go on Airbnb," he said. "Don't be a host on Airbnb. It's as simple as that."

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