The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued a preliminary injunction Aug. 9 for Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage, a faith-based women’s shelter. The injunction prevents the city from enforcing anti-discrimination laws that would require Hope Center to allow biological men presenting as transgender women to access the facility overnight.
“The Court concludes that Hope Center has demonstrated that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief,” District Court Judge Sharon Gleason wrote in her order.
“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man. The court’s order will allow the center to continue in its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves while this lawsuit moves forward.”
On Jan. 28, 2018, Timothy Coyle, a man who identifies as a transgender woman and goes by the name Samantha Coyle, showed up at the shelter and asked to stay the night. Coyle was clearly drunk and had been wounded in a fight at a nearby shelter. That shelter had ejected Coyle from their facility.
Hope Center Director Sherrie Laurie told Coyle that he could not stay, but she provided him with cab fare to travel to the hospital for treatment of his wound. Coyle returned to the shelter the next day and was again denied access—this time because he arrived before the shelter opened for new admissions that day.
Coyle filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (ERC), under a statute prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations.
The shelter had previously offered Coyle other services, including meals and the opportunity to shower by himself, but repeatedly refused to allow him to stay overnight. Hope Center argued that it could not permit Coyle to sleep at its facility because all of the shelter’s clients sleep in one room, in close proximity to one another. According to ADF, virtually all the women Hope Center serves have suffered rape, physical abuse or domestic violence.
“Women’s-only shelters, including the overnight housing that Downtown Hope Center provides, retain the right to provide housing only to women to help ensure that they have a safe place to sleep that does not require close proximity to men,” ADF explained in a statement.
In an earlier Facebook post when the story first broke, Franklin Graham said: “The LGBTQ agenda is trying to erase the lines of right and wrong and common sense. Should men be allowed to stay at a women’s homeless shelter? To sleep, dress, undress, and shower alongside vulnerable homeless women staying there? That’s an easy answer— NO WAY! … Privacy and safety are a basic human right.”
The Anchorage ERC began investigating the shelter for violating the ordinance, which includes prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, but Hope Center filed suit against the ERC before the commission reached a decision on Coyle’s complaint.
ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker argued that Hope Center did not qualify as a “public accommodation,” and that the city’s ordinance exempts homeless shelters. He also maintained that admitting a biological man overnight would make it impossible for Hope Center to carry out its mission to serve vulnerable women.
Last week, Judge Gleason agreed, stating that the local rules “do not appear to apply to Hope Center’s homeless shelter. … Affidavits submitted by persons who have used Hope Center’s overnight living space support the conclusion that the public interest would be adversely affected if [the ordinance] were enforced against Hope Center.”
Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom