Officials are powerless to stop an Austrian Basil Fawlty who has declared his guesthouse a gay- and trans-free zone because he doesn’t want them contaminating his property with syphilis and AIDS.
Michael Hirschmann, 59, of Vienna listed the discriminatory entry rules for his M-Quartier guesthouse, located in the municipality of Aggsbach Markt in the Austrian state of Lower Austria, in a dedicated anti-gay section on its website.
After the story went viral, LGBTIQ spokesman Mario Lindner of the Social Democratic Party of Austria said: “We cannot and must not accept that a hotel in the middle of Austria advertises itself as an ‘anti-homo house’ and identifies sexual orientation with HIV – that is absolutely unacceptable!”
And managing director Andrea Brunner of the non-profit organisation Aids Hilfe Vienna said she and her colleagues were “horrified” by the guesthouse and offered to educate its owner by providing him with “broad information on the subject of sexual health”.
She said: “If he has irrational fears, we can take them away with good advice. We can educate him how HIV and STDs are transmitted – namely not in everyday life, as is the case in a hotel.”
The rules on the M-Quartier guesthouse’s website strictly prohibit “homosexuals, paedophiles and gender-fluid people” from entering the premises.
On the website, it describes same-sex relationships as “philosophies and practices [that] are destructive to the mental health of everyone involved”.
Hirschmann, who claims he is a devout Christian, also writes: “[W]e reject homosexuality and want nothing to do with AIDS or syphilis”.
The hotelier adds: “The LGBT lobby has worked well over the years, because companies and institutions would rather give in than get in trouble. Untruthful representations, bullying and even violence have brought a change in thinking in society. What used to be considered sick and disgusting is now socially acceptable.”
Hirschmann denied to local media that his rules were discriminatory, claiming instead that they were in place for “health reasons”, as, according to the hotelier, homosexuality is an “illness”.
He said: “It has nothing to do with discrimination, I’m just saying please stay away from us. I can’t put it more politely. We reject the gay lifestyle.”
Aggsbach Markt mayor Josef Kremser of the Austrian People’s Party has criticised the guesthouse’s policy and, after the story went viral, removed the accommodation from the municipality’s website.
However, according to Ann-Sophie Otte from the Homosexual Initiative Vienna (HOSI Wien), there is little room for legal action because Austria does not have comprehensive protection against discrimination in Austria.
Lower Austria became the last Austrian state to update its anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services in January 2017.
However, local media reported that the anti-discrimination law does not affect private room rentals.
In spite of the public criticism, Hirschmann reported that his “anti-homo house will remain in operation”, adding: “You won’t be able to talk me out of it.”