A Woman’s Shelter for abused and homeless women in Anchorage, Alaska came under fire for turning away a biological male, who identified as a female.
The Alaskan State’s Equal Rights Commission is investigating the shelter for refusing to allow men into the shelter’s showers and living facilities.
The Downtown Hope Center, came under investigation after an individual named Timothy Coyle, who identifies as Samantha Coyle, filed a complaint with the Commission after being denied entrance to the facility.
However, in January, Coyle was kicked from a nearby shelter for physical violence the night before the individual showed up at Hope. Coyle suffered injuries as a result of his drunkenness; furthermore, the Hope Center Director Sherrie Laurie sent him to the hospital and paid for his medical expenses.
Coyle then filed a complaint with the Commission after the center refused his entrance. An attorney for the Hope Center, who is trying to get the complaint tossed, claims that the facility is not “public accommodation” and should be awarded an accommodation for religious liberty.
The center is represented by The Alliance Defending Freedom and will fight both the complaint and the commission.
“This challenge seeks to protect the right of a faith-based homeless shelter to exercise its religious beliefs and to speak about those beliefs so that it can help homeless and hurting women in downtown Anchorage,” reads the complaint. “But [Municipality of Anchorage] is interpreting its laws to force the Hope Center to admit men into its women’s shelter and to stay silent about the differences between men and women. That violates Anchorage’s own laws and the Constitution.”
The complaint does note that the enforcement of such anti-discrimination policies would “force homeless women to sleep alongside and interact with men in intimate settings—even though those women may have just been beaten, raped, and sexually assaulted by a man the day before.”
The Center is arguing that the municipality “is harassing the Hope Center in bad faith, pressuring the Hope Center to change its policy and to stay silent when the Hope Center has done nothing illegal.”
“These investigations prove that Anchorage is using its law—a law which contains an express exemption for homeless shelters—and will continue to use this law in the future to force the Hope Center to change its faith-based policies, to allow biological men into its women’s shelter, and to stay silent about its religious beliefs,” states the complaint.