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City officials drop discrimination complaint after federal court says women’s only shelter should not be forced to admit trans-women

In January 2018, a transgender woman filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, alleging a woman’s refuge was guilty of discrimination for twice refusing him admission into the female-only shelter.

Anchorage officials took action against the refuge, Downtown Hope Center, and opened an investigation into the allegation of gender identity discrimination.

According to David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, when the transgender individual, Samantha Coyle, approached the facility, it was after hours.

“He was inebriated,” Cortman told KTUU. “He was injured. He had just come from a fight where he was kicked out of another shelter.”

The shelter sent Coyle to a nearby hospital that night. The following day, Coyle returned again after-hours and was denied entry for a second time.

“Some of the women have said to the shelter, if you allow biological men to sleep right next to us at night, to disrobe and change right next to us at night, we’ll brave the cold,” Cortman said.

“This is for the women they are protecting,” he added. “There are other shelters where this gentleman can go. And this one happens to be a women’s only shelter and that I think is a great balance.”

Sherrie Laurie, Executive Director of the facility said, “There are women in there that are so severely abused, they don’t even know that men can be kind.

“So, to ask a female that has been sexually assaulted, sold in sex-trafficking, any of those kinds of things, to let a man sleep three-feet next to her, it just increases the trauma they’ve been through.

“It’s imperative to have a safe place where biological women are safe from that threat of having a male come into the environment. And for many, it’s the first time in their life they’ve felt safe.”

Although the Equal Rights Commission accused the shelter of violating the city’s public accommodation ordinance and engaging in gender identity discrimination a federal court sided with the shelter, ruling in a temporary order that the operation of a women’s only shelter does not violate Anchorage’s public accommodation law, nor does the law apply to the women’s shelter.

Anchorage officials were forced to drop their complaint against Downtown Hope Center, allowing the shelter to continue providing a safe place for vulnerable women.

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