Christian Homeless Shelter Suing For Right To Discriminate Against Transgender People

Lea van der Merwe

A Christian homeless shelter for women in Anchorage, Alaska, is suing to be able to refuse help to transgender people knocking at their door.

As reported by LGBTQ Nation, the lawsuit brought by Downtown Soup Kitchen, a Hope Center shelter, seeks to overturn the city's nondiscrimination ordinance that prohibits them from being able to discriminate against transwomen.

The shelter is being represented by conservative Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom. ADF is the same organization which represented baker Jack Phillips in the Supreme Court -- after he refused to bake custom wedding cakes in support of same-sex couples -- who cited his faith as the reason he could not comply with a custom order.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified Alliance Defending Freedom as a hate group.

The homeless shelter previously turned away a transgender woman twice in January this year, but both times they argued that they had grounds to do so. On one occasion she had arrived drunk, and on the other occasion she had arrived after the administration department had closed for the night. Hope Center is a shelter for homeless women, and is run by a Christian non-profit organization.

Just as the shelter was filing their lawsuit, the city of Anchorage was voting on whether or not to remove transgender individuals from the list of identity categories protected by the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

An attorney acting on behalf of the shelter argued that the center would "never admit a biological male" to the shelter, regardless of how the vote turned out. The measure was later defeated at the ballots, but when the attorney's statement was leaked to the public, an investigation into the shelter was ordered immediately.

Aside from the investigation, the transgender woman who had been turned away also filed a complaint with the city's Equal Rights Commission. So far, no conclusion has been announced in the investigation -- and no decision has been made about the complaint, either.

The shelter's lawsuit claims that the investigation that was launched is based on religious persecution. The shelter believes that it is being targeted because of their Christian faith. While the homeless shelter is exempt from the city's ordinance, they have regularly tried to overturn local nondiscrimination ordinances that have included transgender people.

"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," the lawsuit claims.

David Dinielli, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, has also spoken up about the shelter's lawsuit and complaints. He claims that there is absolutely no evidence that transgendered individuals pose any specific danger to cis-gendered people in any situation.

"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."