Hope Center wins religious freedom lawsuit after being accused of denying service to a transsexual

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AP PHOTO/MARK THIESSEN This file photo from November shows the Hope Center women’s shelter in downtown Anchorage.

In a recent twist on the Anchorage Hope Center religious freedom lawsuit, Municipality’s Anchorage Equal Rights Commission settled with the Downtown Center. The agreement awards Hope Center $1 in damages and almost $100,000 as legal fees.

Women staying at the center claim to be relived and many residents call it a victory for abused women and homeless in Anchorage. However, others lament the settlement as a loss for anti-discrimination laws and transgender rights.

In any case, the decision of Anchorage to drop its complaint against the Downtown Hope Center for refusing to serve a transgender woman has marked the end of a long and arduous ideological battle.

Shelter resident Margaret Jokanan said, “I’ve heard on occasion some of the women talk about how they’re thankful that men are not allowed in there … it’s just all women. I’m thankful they’re still open. I don’t like to see people coming in and causing problems.”

However, Rev. Matthew Schultz with First Presbyterian Church stated, “Personally, I believe if one is to consider themselves a Christian — a person of faith — they have to extend their charitable actions to everybody, regardless of gender.”

The Municipality, in dropping the case, conceded to the shelter’s claim of not operating a public accommodation, which was necessary for it to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

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