A federal court ruled on Monday that a faith-based women’s shelter in Anchorage, Alaska, was allowed to remain open exclusively for women after the city passed an ordinance to mandate otherwise.
The Downtown Hope Center sued the city in 2018 when officials sought legal retribution against the charity over its refusal to allow an inebriated and injured biological man who identified as a woman to sleep at its facility alongside homeless women. The shelter referred the man to a hospital instead where he was sent in a taxi paid for by the group.
A complaint was later filed with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission and pursued by the city before a preliminary injunction in the shelter’s favor led to a settlement that forced the municipality to pay the charity $100,001 in fees. The Anchorage Assembly then opted to change a local ordinance to erase gender-exclusive shelters, which provoked the ongoing litigation.
In Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage II, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska ruled that the shelter did not meet the definition of a place of “public accommodation,” and is therefore exempt from city rules, which otherwise would have penalized the group for so-called gender-based discrimination.
“Vulnerable women deserve a safe place to stay overnight, and we’re pleased that they can sleep soundly, at least for the time being, due to the court’s order,” said Kate Anderson, senior counsel for the legal nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Anchorage shelter. “Downtown Hope Center serves everyone, but its overnight women’s shelter exists to provide a safe place for women, many of whom have survived sex trafficking, rape, or domestic violence at the hands of men.”
While the ruling allows the local mission to remain selective in its service, the case remains open. The Downtown Hope Center may still seek damages from the city.
Alliance Defending Freedom is the same religious liberty group representing Colorado web designer Lorie Smith in a lawsuit petitioned before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Smith, the Denver-area founder of 303 Creative, lost a 2-1 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which mandated that she create custom graphics and websites for LGBT customers despite messages that contradict her religious convictions. Smith is challenging the same law weaponized by left-wing activists to compel a Christian cake artist to create a custom cake for a gay wedding and whose latest thought crime was his refusal to do so for a so-called gender transition.