Judge hears motions in Anchorage shelter's transgender case
Should an Anchorage faith-based women's shelter be forced to accept transgender women? It's one of the questions a federal judge is considering following a hearing on Friday.
The case centers around an incident that happened a year ago at the Downtown Soup Kitchen, now called The Hope Center. Last January, the center refused to accept a transgender woman because they said she was drunk and injured. Staff at the center put her in a cab and gave her a ride to a local hospital. The woman filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, saying she had been discriminated against.
Attorney Ryan Tucker, with the Alliance Defending Freedom, is representing the Hope Center in a federal lawsuit against the city and the Equal Rights Commission. Tucker said there was no discrimination in this case, but he added that the center shouldn't have to accept someone who is biologically male.
"This facility in particular caters and provides a safe haven for women specifically. And they've told us that even the sight of a man at night three feet away causes them obvious emotional harm," he said.
The city of Anchorage has laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on a number of factors including gender identity. The Hope Center is arguing that its shelter should be exempt, and that forcing staff to accept transgender women violates their religious beliefs.
Assistant Municipal Attorney Ryan Stuart said the Equal Rights Commission has neither finished its investigation of the complaint nor determined whether the Hope Center qualifies as a public accommodation. The city has asked District Judge Sharon Gleason to let the commission investigate and decide the case, adding that the Hope Center can always appeal the decision to a higher court if they're not satisfied with the outcome.
Gleason is being asked to rule on whether the case should be kept out of federal court for now. She is also considering whether the Hope Center should be able to post signs claiming it is a women-only shelter until a final ruling in the case occurs.
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