Stella Maxwell
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Alaska Homeless Shelter Wins Right to Turn Away Trans Women

Homeless shelter

The city of Anchorage, Alaska, has agreed to allow a shelter for homeless women to keep transgender women out, settling a lawsuit brought by the shelter.

The city will also pay out $100,001, most of it going to the shelter’s legal counsel, the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, and will agree that the shelter will not be considered a public accommodation under its nondiscrimination ordinance, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Hope Center had sued the city in federal court last year, challenging the nondiscrimination ordinance, which bans discrimination based on gender identity as well as several other characteristics. Hope Center, which offers Christian ministry along with meals and shelter to the homeless at multiple sites, limits overnight stays at its women’s shelter to those who were assigned female at birth.

“The Hope Center believes that a person’s sex (whether male or female) is an immutable God-given gift and that it is wrong for a person to deny his or her God-given sex,” the center’s complaint states. Its shelter for women, however, admits people who were assigned female at birth but identify as male.

Using the specious argument that trans women are somehow a threat, the suit continues, “It would not only be dangerous and against common sense, but it would violate the Hope Center’s sincerely held religious beliefs to admit biological men into its shelter and allow them to sleep side by side and disrobe next to women, some of whom have been assaulted by men and fear for their safety.”

The center filed the suit after a trans woman told the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission that she had been denied admission to the shelter because of her gender identity, although officials with Hope Center said she was turned away because she was drunk and combative. The commission filed two discrimination complaints against the shelter, and Hope Center responded with the lawsuit after it and the city failed to reach settlements on the complaints.

The settlement was announced Monday, a month after U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason issued a preliminary injunction blocking the city from enforcing the ordinance against Hope Center while the suit was heard, saying a homeless shelter does not qualify as a public accommodation under the law. The ordinance defines public accommodations as places of business that offer goods or services to the general population, she wrote.

Continuing the litigation would be costly, and the injunction indicated the city was unlikely to prevail on the question of whether a homeless shelter was a public accommodation, leading to the settlement, Municipal Attorney Rebecca Windt Pearson told Alaska Public Media.

Of the $100,001, $100,000 will go to ADF to cover the cost of its legal work and $1 to Hope Center, Alaska Public Media reports. And the women’s shelter will be free to deny overnight admission to trans women.

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