Many of the women who use the shelter overnight are survivors of domestic or sexual abuse. The center said it did not want to force vulnerable women to sleep next to a biological man, particularly one who was intoxicated. Downtown Hope Center is also a sober facility. The center serves food and provides services to everyone during the day, but is restricted to women at night.
Other shelters in Anchorage serve people of all genders. Earlier in the day, the same man who wished to sleep at Downtown Hope Center had been banned from one of these shelters for starting a fight.
“All Americans should be free to live out their faith and serve their neighbors—especially homeless women who have suffered sexual abuse or domestic violence—without being targeted or harassed by the government,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kate Anderson.
“This is the right outcome. 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 Equal Rights Commission accused the Downtown Hope Shelter of violating the city’s public accommodation ordinance and engaging in gender identity discrimination. The shelter denied that they refused to host the man due to his gender identity. ADF further argued in court that the public accommodation ordinance already exempted homeless shelters, including women’s-only shelters.
A federal court sided with the shelter in the case The Downtown Soup Kitchen dba Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage. The U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled in a temporary order that the operation of a women-only shelter does not violate Anchorage’s public accommodation law, nor does the law apply to the women’s shelter.