A Christian homeless shelter has settled a lawsuit with the city of Anchorage, Alaska over its policy refusing shelter to trans women.
The controversy began in 2018, when a transgender woman was turned away from the Downtown Hope Center after the agency cited its religious beliefs. After she was refused service, the individual filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, citing the city's trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The local law was upheld after conservatives attempted to repeal it at the ballot box.
Downtown Hope Center filed its own complaint to the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, claiming its religious liberty would be violated if it were forced to recognize the gender identity of trans women as valid.
In August, District Judge Sharon Gleason issued a preliminary injunction stopping the city's nondiscrimination ordinance from compelling the shelter to infringe on its beliefs until the case went to trial. In a 43-page ruling, Gleason did not, however, state whether she believed that Downtown Hope Center's claims were constitutionally sound.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the anti-LGBTQ+ hate group which defended Colorado baker Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court, was representing Downtown Hope Center in the suit. The right-wing law firm is also responsible for anti-trans bathroom bills across the U.S. and fought to defend state sodomy bans before they were overturned by SCOTUS in the groundbreaking 2005 ruling Lawrence v. Texas.
This week's settlement, however, preempts future litigation by declaring that the shelter is not a "public accommodation" and is not bound to the ordinance. As part of the agreement, ADF will receive $100,000 in damages, while Downtown Hope Center will get an additional $1.
ADF is thrilled at the result. According to Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, religious organizations "should be free to serve consistently with their beliefs and mission."
"The end of this case means the center can continue its critically needed work to help the vulnerable women it serves and fulfill its duty to do everything it can to protect them," he claimed in a statement published to ADF's website.
Municipal leaders tell the local newspaper Anchorage Daily News, however, that the resolution is just a "calculated decision to just move forward."
Anchorage is one of three cities in Alaska, including Juneau and Sitka, with laws on the books offering protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, and public accommodations. A pro-LGBTQ+ civil rights ordinance was vetoed by the mayor of Fairbanks earlier this year after passing its city council.
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