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Alliance Alert

Aug 16, 2019

Small Steps Toward Protecting Women

Susan B. Anthony once said, “The day may be approaching when the whole world will recognize woman as the equal of man.”

While the current gender identity movement threatens to reverse those key gains, two victories for ADF clients over the past two weeks offer a glimmer of hope.

In Anchorage, Alaska, a faith-based overnight shelter for vulnerable women has been under threat because its city insists that it allow men who claim a female identity to sleep just a few feet away from women who are victims of rape, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. But on Aug. 9, a federal district court blocked the city’s demand, which means these women will have a safe place to stay this winter.

And in Connecticut, federal officials announced they would investigate a complaint filed by ADF on behalf of three high school female athletes whose opportunities to compete at the next level are being consistently stolen by boys.

Let’s take a look.

The Downtown Hope Center is a faith-based nonprofit organization that helps, feeds, and teaches the homeless – both men and women. At night, the Hope Center also serves homeless women—most of whom have suffered rape, physical abuse, and domestic violence—by providing them a safe place to sleep at night.

The Hope Center’s overnight accommodation for women consists of a single large room with mattresses set three to five feet apart from one another. During the day, Hope Center serves meals, provides clothing, laundry facilities, and job skills training to men and women, but for overnight stays it protects  battered and abused women by providing them a safe space to sleep and change without men in their midst.

But Anchorage’s Equal Rights Commission is investigating the Hope Center for allegedly violating a local law after a biological man who claims a feminine identity sought overnight housing in the women’s facility. The man was both injured and apparently inebriated, so Hope Center did the right thing, paying for his transportation to a hospital and referring him to another shelter that could provide him accommodaitons.

With its investigation, Anchorage is trying to force the Hope Center to house biological men alongside women in a shared, overnight sleeping facility. If Anchorage succeeds, it would not only force a religious ministry to abandon its mission and message, but also force homeless women to sleep alongside and interact with men in intimate settings—even though those women may have been beaten, raped, or sexually assaulted by a man.

Last week, a federal court issued an order that stops Anchorage officials from enforcing the city ordinance against the Hope Center. The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska wrote, “[T]he Court concludes that Hope Center has demonstrated that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief.”

In light of the court’s order, ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson reiterated the good work the Hope Center does 24 hours a day:

All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse—without being targeted or harassed by the government. Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but women deserve a safe place to stay overnight. No woman—particularly not an abuse survivor—should be forced to sleep or disrobe next to a man. The court’s order will allow the center to continue in its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves while this lawsuit moves forward.

That victory—which keeps the case going in Anchorage—came just days after the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights announced it will investigate a policy created by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that allows males who claim a female identity to compete in high school girls’ sports. As we’ve seen before, this policy has caused female athletes who train endlessly to get that winning edge to instead become spectators of their own sport.

In June, ADF filed a complaint with the OCR, arguing that the CIAC policy discriminates against girls and poses a threat to important Title IX gains for women.

ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb addressed the situation:

Female athletes deserve to compete on a level playing field. Forcing them to compete against boys makes them spectators in their own sports, which is grossly unfair and destroys their athletic opportunities. For that reason, we are pleased that OCR has agreed to investigate. Title IX is a federal law that was designed to eliminate discrimination against women in education and athletics, and women fought long and hard to earn the equal athletic opportunities that Title IX provides. Allowing boys to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.

While celebrating these advances in Connecticut and Anchorage, ADF is also preparing to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that promises to make a big impact on the larger issue. Set for an Oct. 8 oral argument, R.G & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asks whether judges and unelected bureaucrats can redefine “sex” to mean “gender identity” under federal law—a change that would severely undermine gains for women.

Women’s advocate Susan B. Anthony died in 1906—14 years before women gained the right to vote in the U.S. Just before her death, she lamented to a friend, “To think, I have had more than 60 years of hard struggle for a little liberty, and then to die without it seems so cruel.”

A century later, it’s striking to consider that, while the ballot box isn’t in jeopardy, both a vulnerable woman’s access to safe shelter, and a female athlete’s dream of competing at the next level (an opportunity won by some 50 years of hard struggle under Title IX) are very much at risk.

  • Downtown Hope Center
  • Harris Funeral Homes
  • Selina Soule
  • Friday Feature
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