Christian homeless shelter sues for right to bans trans women

The Hope Center homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska

A Christian-run homeless shelter in Alaska has filed a religious freedom lawsuit, which would allow it to deny providing refuge to trans people.

The Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center in Anchorage has lodged the case after a trans woman made a discrimination complaint, and claims the trans women could make the women-only shelter unsafe.

According to the lawsuit, trans woman Jessie Doe was first refused a space in the women’s shelter, which opened in 2015, because she “smelled strongly of alcohol” and the centre does “not accept individuals who were inebriated.”

The women’s shelter opened in 2015. (Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center/Facebook)

Doe then returned to the shelter the next day but was not allowed in because, the lawsuit reads, 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.”

The shelter is being represented by the anti-LGBT+ Christian firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which also represented Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who was backed in a Supreme Court ruling in June after he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

The lawsuit is challenging city of Anchorage, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission and its executive director.

“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, some of whom have been assaulted by men and fear for their safety,” the lawsuit states.

Downtown Soup Kitchen has been running for more than 30 years. (Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center/Facebook)

The Downtown Soup Kitchen, a non-profit organisation, has been running for more than 30 years.

It provides services including shelter, food and showers to homeless people.

David Dinielli, deputy legal director for civil rights organisation Southern Poverty Law Center, told local news station KTUU: “What they are doing is trying to use their own purported religious beliefs to impose them on others and kick LGBT people out from spaces, from schools, from bakeries and apparently in now in Anchorage, also from shelters.

“In our most vulnerable moments they think that their right to hate should trump our right to live. This is not the Alaska way. This is not the Anchorage way.”

The lawsuit was quietly filed on August 16. According to KTUU, Anchorage will respond to the lawsuit later in September.

No evidence trans women make women-only spaces less safe

Studies do not support the claim that trans women could cause safeguarding issues for female-only spaces.

Recent research, carried out by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy,  showed that there is no empirical evidence to the claim that allowing transgender people to use the public facility of their choice would increase violations of privacy and crime.