Christian homeless shelter defends decision to turn away transgender woman

The Hope Center homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska

A Christian homeless shelter in Alaska has defended turning away a homeless transgender woman on a cold January evening.

The Downtown Hope Center shelter in Anchorage, Alaska, is under investigation from the city’s Equal Rights Commission after a vulnerable homeless trans woman with nowhere to sleep was denied access into the women’s shelter.

Police had dropped the unnamed woman, identified as Jessie Doe, at the overnight shelter in January 2018—but twice in two days she was turned away by staff.

The average overnight January temperature in Anchorage, Alaska, is -12° Celsius (9° Fahrenheit).

The shelter’s owners have gone to court in a bid to shut down the city’s discrimination investigation, with their lawyers arguing that they should be free to discriminate against transgender people.

Homeless shelter defended by anti-LGBT law firm

Evangelical law firm Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Downtown Hope Center in the case, asking the US District Court for an injunction against the city on January 11.

Extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center lists Alliance Defending Freedom as a anti-LGBT hate group due to its work to overturn LGBT+ discrimination protections, with the firm most notably representing Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who has refused to bake cakes for gay and trans customers.

In its release and court filing, ADF repeatedly misgenders the homeless transgender woman, referring to her as an “inebriated and injured man.”

The Hope Center homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska

The Hope Center homeless shelter in Anchorage, Alaska.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney David Cortman said: “All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbours—including the battered and homeless—without being targeted or harassed by the government.

“The staff and volunteers at Downtown Hope Center open their arms and their doors, motivated by their faith and deep concern for the vulnerable.

“Hope Center has gained a reputation for providing a safe, sober, and respectful environment for homeless women, most of whom have suffered rape, physical abuse, or domestic violence.

“Remarkably, Anchorage is attempting to dismantle and disrupt the ministry’s unique and effective services to the community and harassing them by twisting a law that doesn’t even apply.”

ADF added: “Women’s-only shelters, including the overnight housing that Downtown Hope Center provides, retain the right to provide housing only to biological females to help ensure that they have a safe place to sleep that does not require close proximity to males.”

Alliance Defending Freedom challenged over ‘misleading’ tactics

Alliance Defending Freedom’s support of women’s rights in this case is contradictory to its campaigns to shut down the largest women’s healthcare provider in the US, Planned Parenthood, opposing the right for women to safely access contraception.

Masen Davis of LGBT+ group Freedom for All Americans told Huffington Post: “Anchorage residents… should not be fooled by misleading tactics by anti-transgender activists that paint transgender women as predators or criminals.

“Transgender women aren’t men ― they are women who value safety and privacy like everyone else.

“As always, it’s illegal to enter any space with the intent of harming or harassing someone else, and anyone who does so will be held accountable.”

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.