ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A federal court issued an order Friday that stops Anchorage officials from misapplying a city ordinance against a faith-based women’s shelter. That shelter, Downtown Hope Center, referred an inebriated and injured man to a hospital to get the care he needed and paid for his taxi ride there. But because the center didn’t let the man sleep at its shelter and next to the abused and homeless women, Anchorage pursued a complaint against the shelter.
The preliminary injunction requested by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the Downtown Hope Center prevents the city from enforcing the challenged provisions against the center while its lawsuit proceeds. The court also denied the city’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “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.”
The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission began investigating the shelter for violating the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, after the person who the shelter referred to the hospital filed a complaint. But as ADF attorneys explained, Downtown Hope Center didn’t deny the individual on that basis, and the city’s ordinance exempts homeless shelters regardless.
“[T]he Court concludes that Hope Center has demonstrated that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska wrote in its order.
Women’s-only shelters, including the overnight housing that Downtown Hope Center provides, retain the right to provide housing only to women to help ensure that they have a safe place to sleep that does not require close proximity to men.
ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker argued before the court on behalf of the women’s shelter in The Downtown Soup Kitchen dba Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage on Jan. 11.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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