Anchorage Women’s Shelter Files Second Suit Against City Over Anti-Discrimination Law

Anchorage Women’s Shelter Files Second Suit Against City Over Anti-Discrimination Law

The Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska, is heading back to court in an attempt to stop city officials from using an ordinance to force the faith-based women’s shelter to admit trans-identifying biological males for overnight stays.

This is the second time the Downtown Hope Center has filed suit against the city of Anchorage. In February 2018, the shelter referred a man, who was both inebriated and injured, to the hospital—and even paid for his taxi ride. Later, the man filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission alleging that the center had refused to allow him to stay there overnight because he identified as transgender. 

The city pursued the case, with the Downtown Hope Center filing a counter lawsuit against the city of Anchorage in federal court. In 2019, the federal court eventually sided with the shelter.

In that case, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing the shelter had argued that its ministry is not a public accommodation, and therefore, has the legal right to set policies on who can and cannot stay in its facility. 

The federal court agreed, issuing a temporary order that the Downtown Hope Center did not violate Anchorage’s public accommodation law and would be free to deny biological men access to its facilities when it comes to overnight stays. 

On Sept. 30, 2019, the city agreed to drop the complaint, making the court’s ruling permanent. But in May this year, the Anchorage Assembly removed the provision that the court in 2018 interpreted as exempting homeless shelters from the city’s anti-discrimination law. The Assembly also redefined public accommodation to include homeless shelters.

ADF lawyers believe that the law’s amended language is just another attempt to find a new way to force the Downtown Hope Center to let biological males sleep next to abused and trafficked women.

“Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, and its overnight women’s shelter exists to provide a safe place for women, many of whom have suffered due to sex trafficking, rape or domestic violence at the hands of men,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson

“Women deserve a place to sleep where they can feel secure,” she continued. “City officials have no business trying to force the center to violate its beliefs by demanding that the shelter allow biological men to sleep mere feet from vulnerable women. This is the second attempt by the city to force Downtown Hope Center to violate its religious beliefs to the detriment of the women it serves.”

Photo: Courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom

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