A conservative Christian group in the US has urged a district judge to block trans women from using a faith-based women’s shelter.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sued the city of Anchorage in Alaska to stop the authorities from applying a gender identity law to the Hope Center women’s shelter.
The ADF – which has been labeled an anti-LGBTI ‘hate group’ by some rights organizations – argues that issues of privacy and religious freedoms are at risk.
The case was brought about after a trans woman was turned away from the shelter last year.
Some women ‘would rather sleep in the woods’
ADF attorney Ryan Tucker argued that a number of women who used the shelter had been survivors of abuse or violence, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.
He went on to say that allowing biological men to stay in the same shelter would be highly traumatic for some of the women, adding that some ‘would rather sleep in the woods’ in sub-zero temperatures rather than use the shelter which allowed trans women.
Tucker argued that there were other shelters available for biological men in the city.
The shelter operators filed a lawsuit against the Equal Rights Commission last year after a trans woman complained that she was turned away in August last year.
The shelter argues that this was not because of her gender identity, but because she was intoxicated and had been fighting in a different shelter.
The operators say they are suing to clear their names of any wrongdoing.
Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart countered that the legal moves were premature as the Equal Rights Commission had not finished their investigation.
The investigation is currently on hold, in part because of the shelter’s lack of cooperation, Stuart added.
LGBTI rights & religious freedoms
The ADF is a controversial organization in the US, and in the past have argued that LGBTI rights infringe on religious freedoms.
They have been labeled a hate group by legal advocacy organization, The Southern Poverty Law Center, who say the ADF wants to push transgender people ‘back into the shadows’.
LGBTI rights group the Human Rights campaign described the ADF as ‘one of the nation’s most dangerous organizations working to prevent equality for LGBT people’.
The group is most commonly known for defending Jack Philips, a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The case went to the US Supreme Court, which sided with the baker. However, the court ruled in a limited capacity and said that their ruling might not apply to other cases.
Trans rights in the US
This case is another instance of trans rights recognition, which has become a major talking point in the US.
There have been many recent arguments over whether trans people can use toilets in line with their actual gender, and whether trans women prisoners should be housed in male or female correctional facilities.
Conflict over trans rights has increased amid the deeply polarised climate of Donald Trump’s presidency.
In October 2018, a leaked memo from the Department of Health and Human Services said that the government planned to restrict the definition of sex to genitalia at birth.
The proposed move was widely condemned, with rights activists saying such a policy would ‘legally erase’ trans people in the US.