The Municipality of Anchorage will pay The Hope Center homeless shelter $100,001 and allow it to forbid transgender women, settling a lawsuit brought by the faith-based Anchorage shelter for women.
The settlement comes a month after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason issued a preliminary injunction declaring that Anchorage’s anti-discrimination ordinance, which bans discrimination based on gender identity as well as several other characteristics, could not be applied to the shelter as the case moved toward trial in early 2020.
The Hope Center, which offers Christian ministry along with meals and shelter to the homeless at multiple sites, will no longer be considered a “public accommodation” under its nondiscrimination ordinance, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The shelter was represented in its lawsuit by the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The Alliance recently represented a Colorado baker in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over the baker’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
“Faith-based nonprofits should be free to serve consistently with their beliefs and mission,” said ADF senior counsel Ryan Tucker, in a written statement published by the organization. “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.”
The Anchorage Daily News reports:
Hope Center’s legal battle with the municipality started in February 2018, when a transgender woman said she had been denied shelter at Hope Center because she is transgender. She filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, and the issue quickly drew attention in the weeks before the city’s vote on Proposition 1, an anti-discrimination ordinance covering gender identity.
The commission’s executive director started a second complaint a few months later. Attempts to settle the matter were unsuccessful, and Hope Center filed a lawsuit in August 2018. The suit alleged the municipality was violating Hope Center’s rights under the U.S. Constitution and state constitution by forcing it to act against its own policies. According to the center’s complaint, “The Hope Center believes that a person’s sex (whether male or female) is an immutable God-given gift and that it is wrong for a person to deny his or her God-given sex.”
Under that belief, the center said it was inappropriate for a shelter that serves battered women to also serve someone who their religious beliefs say is a man.
The suit also argued that “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.”
“Continuing the litigation would be costly, and the injunction indicated the city was unlikely to prevail on the question of whether a homeless shelter was a public accommodation, leading to the settlement, Municipal Attorney Rebecca Windt Pearson told Alaska Public Media,” according to the Advocate.
Of the $100,001, $100,000 will go to ADF to cover the cost of its legal work and $1 to Hope Center, Alaska Public Media reports.