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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 03
Alaska homeless shelter sues for right to deny help to Trans people
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Alaska homeless shelter sues for right to deny help to Trans people

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Hope Center, a Christian homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska, has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Anchorage to overturn the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

The shelter turned away a Transgender woman twice in January. Although the shelter had cause for turning her away - the woman showed up drunk the first time and after hours the second - Hope Center argues that it has First Amendment religious freedom and freedom of association rights to reject any Trans person who wants to stay there.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the far-right evangelical legal group that successfully defended the 'right' of a Colorado baker to deny service to Gay couples, is representing Hope Center.

ADF attorney Ryan Tucker told the US District Court that many of the shelter's resident women are survivors of domestic violence and 'they would rather sleep in the woods' in the frigid Alaskan winter than share space with a Transgender woman. Temperatures in the city in the past week have hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The group is asking the judge to enjoin the city from enforcing the nondiscrimination law, saying that, as a homeless shelter, the group should have an exemption from the law and, as a faith-based charity, it should have the religious freedom to deny access as they see fit.

In November, as Anchorage was voting on whether or not to strike protections from Trans people from the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, an attorney for the shelter told a local newspaper that it would never admit a 'biological male' into the facility despite how the vote turned out.

The measure was subsequently defeated at the ballot box, but after the attorney's remarks became public, the city initiated an investigation of the facility.

The woman who was turned away also filed a complaint with the city's Equal Rights Commission. Neither case has been resolved.

Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the city opposed the suit because the commission's investigation has not been completed because the shelter wouldn't cooperate with the investigation.

There is no exemption for homeless shelters in the law.

'There is simply no evidence that transgender people are more of a threat to anyone, whether that be in bathrooms, locker rooms, or homeless shelters,' David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Anchorage news station KTUU.

'In fact, we know transgender people are among the most, if not the most, likely to be targeted for abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.'

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