Transgender-rights activists have disrupted American life in a number of ways already.
They’ve demanded girls be allowed in boys’ showers in schools. Men have marched into women’s lockers in recreation centers and disrobed and showered. They’ve insisted that males and females are interchangeable in the U.S. military.
Now they are demanding that men be served at a faith-based shelter that provides a retreat for women abused by men.
The Equal Rights Commission in Anchorage, Alaska, is claiming that the Downtown Hope Center is violating a city non-discrimination ordinance.
But the Alliance Defending Freedom argues the measure specifically exempts such shelters.
Further, the Downtown Hope Center is a faith-based organization that cannot be ordered to violate its religious beliefs, ADF contends in a legal complaint.
ADF filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the Downtown Hope Center against the city, the Equal Rights Commission and its director, Pamela Basler.
The dispute was prompted by an “inebriated and injured man” demanding admittance to the women’s center. The center referred him to a hospital.
“The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission began investigating the shelter for violating the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity,” ADF said.
But the center didn’t deny the man admittance on that basis, the legal group explained.
“The ordinance specifically exempts homeless shelters,” ADF pointed out.
“Women’s-only shelters, such as Downtown Hope Center, retain the right to provide overnight housing only to biological females to ensure that they have a safe place to stay and don’t have to sleep in close proximity to males. This is particularly important because many of the women at the shelter have been battered or sexually abused by men.”
ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson argued all Americans “should be free to live and serve others according to their faith without fear of unjust government punishment.”
“That faith commitment is what motivates Downtown Hope Center and its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves,” she said. “It should go without saying, but protecting vulnerable women isn’t illegal. Because the center hasn’t violated any law, we are asking the court to stop the city from continuing its baseless attack on this remarkable and needed outreach to homeless, battered, and sexually exploited women.”
ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle said many of the women Downtown Hope Center serves have suffered rape, physical abuse and domestic violence.
“They shouldn’t be forced to sleep or disrobe in the same room as a man,” she said.
“Battered women need a safe place to stay, but, incredibly, Anchorage is trying to take that place away.”
The complaint contends the city is trying to shut down the religious ministry “through an unconstitutional application of its public accommodations and fair housing laws.”
Anchorage “prohibits public accommodations from denying services based on sex or gender identity or state those services will be denied. It also forbids property owners or their agents from communicating any preference or limitation on the use of real property based on sex or gender identity,” the lawyers told the judge.
“Hope Center has not violated this law. It is not a public accommodation, and the code exempts homeless shelters, like Hope Center,” the brief explains.
“The last eight months, Anchorage has used the code to investigate, harass, and pressure Hope Center to admit men into its women’s only shelter, and to stop Hope Center’s exercise of its religious beliefs.”
It was because the center “had directed an inebriated and injured transgender individual to a hospital.”
Not only did Basler attack the center, she then “initiated a second complaint” accusing its lawyers of violating the code by answering questions about the case in the media.
Then it refused to dismiss the complaints, instead continuing its prosecution, which forced the center and its lawyers “to stay silent about its policies and its religious beliefs.”
“These actions are not only unconstitutional, they have handcuffed Hope Center’s ability to defend itself in public and hindered its ability to raise funds,” the filing says.
The result is that the center “faces the prospect of closing its shelter, and needs immediate injunctive relief to stop Anchorage’s unconstitutional targeting.”
There was such hostility on the part of the city’s commission that when ADF, an internationally known organization that frequently argues before the U.S. Supreme Court, stepped in, the city initially refused to correspond with its lawyers.
Further, the city’s agency refused to let a lawyer for the center have a conference transcribed so there would be a record. City officials accused the center of lying in its answers, but they refused to make public the “materials that supposedly proved inconsistencies.”
Then city officials continued their “provocative behavior” by accusing the center of failing to supplement its responses “even though it had previously tried to do so and had been instructed by the commission that no more documents need be exchanged.”
And the city missed a 240-day deadline for filing the first complaint, a fault that was ignored when the city eventually dismissed the second complaint.
The complaint also warns the city.
“When government acts with hostility toward religion, litigants establish a free-exercise violation without need to satisfy strict scrutiny,” the filing said. “Anchorage has acted with such hostility because it is using the code to pressure Hope Center to change its religious beliefs and practices. This is most evidence because the code does not even cover Hope Center. Hope Center’s women shelter is not a public accommodation.”
The state of Colorado’s “hostility” against baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, in prosecuting him for refusing to promote homosexuality in violation of his faith, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June decision in Phillips’ favor.
The complaint in the Anchorage case provides many examples of the city’s hostility, including the commission’s orders that the center “stay silent about its religious policies and beliefs.”
Then, contends the complaint, there are the city’s First Amendment violations, which are numerous.
It concludes the center is suffering irreparable harm from the city’s actions.
“Hope Center simply wants to teach and help homeless women trying to escape from abuse, battery, and sex trafficking. But Anchorage is trying to shut Hope Center’s doors and shove hurting women out in the cold – merely because Anchorage dislikes the beliefs that inspire Hope Center to speak and to serve. That is unjustifiable and unconstitutional.”
Dietra Ennis, a lawyer for Anchorage, responded to the issue by declining to address the core arguments, that the center is not a place of public accommodation, and is exempted.
Instead, she insisted on the city’s right to prosecute the religious organization.
“Following a complaint by a transgender female for denial of services, the AERC started an investigation which had not been concluded due in large part to the noncooperation of the Hope Center. No decision had been reached by the AERC or enforcement action taken prior to the filing of this complaint in federal court. There is strong federal policy not to intervene in local agency proceedings prior to any enforcement action or state court review of local code interpretation. Just as filing of this lawsuit was premature, so is requesting injunctive relief from the federal court,” she told WND.