The Hope Center, also known as the Downtown Soup Kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska, is claiming they should be exempt from the city’s new non-discrimination law on the basis of religion. The new law protects Anchorage citizens from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The shelter is being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal organization that has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Last week, the group had asked U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason for a preliminary injunction against the city’s government and Equal Right Commission, claiming that enforcing the city’s anti-discrimination law would threaten Hope Center’s religious freedom.
According to the court filings by the ADF, the police had dropped off a transgender woman, referred to as “Jessie Doe,” at the overnight shelter in January 2018. The shelter refused to allow her entry, claiming that they believed she was under the influence of alcohol. The shelter claims they paid for a cab ride to take her to the hospital to treat a head wound she had received as a result of fighting at different shelter. Doe returned to the Hope Center the next day and she was denied entry 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.”
According to Jessie Doe, the shelter had denied her entry on the basis of her gender identity and she had filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission. Ryan Stuart, an assistant municipal attorney, has argued that the preliminary injunction sought by the ADF is premature because an investigation by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission had not yet been concluded. According to Stuart, the investigation has been put on hold because the shelter refuses to cooperate.
In a report by the Associated Press, ADF lawyer Ryan Tucker said the shelter’s female guests have told staff members “they would rather sleep in the woods” than sleep alongside a transgender woman. Tucker has also referred to transgender women as “biological males,” saying they are free to use the shelter during the day, adding there are other shelters in the city where “men” can sleep.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is well known for representing anti-transgender clients. Most recently they represented a Colorado baker who made headlines for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple and also a cake for a transgender woman. They have also fought against transgender inclusive school policies in states such as Illinois and Minnesota.