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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 5, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 40
Christian homeless shelter sues for right to turn away Trans people
Section One
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Christian homeless shelter sues for right to turn away Trans people

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Christian homeless shelter in Alaska has filed a lawsuit alleging it has First Amendment religious freedom rights to bar Transgender people from seeking refuge on its premises.

The Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center in Anchorage filed the suit after a local Trans woman made a discrimination complaint against the shelter. Allowing Trans women in could make the women-only shelter unsafe, the lawsuit claims.

According to the lawsuit, a Trans woman identified only as 'Jessie Doe' was first refused a space in the women's shelter because she 'smelled strongly of alcohol,' and the center does 'not accept individuals who [are] inebriated.'

Doe returned to the shelter the next day but once again was turned away. The lawsuit says she was rejected because she 'had not stayed the previous evening, which is required by Shelter policy and because Doe sought entry at a time when the shelter was not accepting new guests.'

Doe complained to the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, charging the shelter with discriminating against her because of her gender identity, which would be a violation of city law.

The lawsuit is challenging the City of Anchorage, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, and the commission's executive director.

'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 lawsuit states.

The Downtown Soup Kitchen has been running for more than 30 years, providing services including shelter, food, and showers to homeless people.

The shelter is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a notoriously anti-LGBT organization that also represented Colorado baker Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

In that case, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phillips after he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious opposition to same-sex marriage.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Anchorage news station KTUU that the religious freedom argument was merely a cover for anti-LGBT bias.

'What they are doing is trying to use their own purported religious beliefs to impose them on others and kick LGBT people out from spaces, from schools, from bakeries, and apparently now in Anchorage also from shelters,' Dinielli said.

'In our most vulnerable moments, they think that their right to hate should trump our right to live. This is not the Alaska way. This is not the Anchorage way.'

The lawsuit was quietly filed by the ADF on August 16 and only recently came to light. According to KTUU, the City of Anchorage will respond to the lawsuit later in September.

Studies do not support the claim that trans women could cause safeguarding issues for female-only spaces.

Recent research by the prestigious Williams Institute showed that there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that allowing Transgender people to use public facilities of their choice would increase violations of privacy and crime.

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