ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing a faith-based women’s shelter asked a federal court Thursday to stop Anchorage officials from misapplying a city ordinance against the ministry after it referred an inebriated and injured man who arrived after hours to a hospital and paid for his taxi ride there.
The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission began investigating the shelter for violating the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. As ADF attorneys explain, the shelter, the Downtown Hope Center, didn’t deny the individual on that basis, and, regardless, the ordinance specifically exempts homeless shelters. Women’s-only shelters, such as Downtown Hope Center, retain the right to provide overnight housing only to biological females to ensure that they have a safe place to stay and don’t have to sleep in close proximity to males. This is particularly important because many of the women at the shelter have been battered or sexually abused by men.
“All Americans should be free to live and serve others according to their faith without fear of unjust government punishment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson. “That faith commitment is what motivates Downtown Hope Center and its duty to protect the vulnerable women it serves. It should go without saying, but protecting vulnerable women isn’t illegal. Because the center hasn’t violated any law, we are asking the court to stop the city from continuing its baseless attack on this remarkable and needed outreach to homeless, battered, and sexually exploited women.”
“Many of the women Downtown Hope Center serves have suffered rape, physical abuse, and domestic violence. They shouldn’t be forced to sleep or disrobe in the same room as a man,” explained ADF Legal Counsel Denise Harle, who will be available at the center for media interviews until 5 p.m. ADT Thursday. “Battered women need a safe place to stay, but, incredibly, Anchorage is trying to take that place away.”
Kevin Clarkson and Sonja Redmond, two of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, are serving as local counsel for the women’s shelter in the case, The Downtown Soup Kitchen d/b/a Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage, filed in August with the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.
- Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR’-lee)
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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