Gavel Drop: Evangelicals Claim Religious Objections to Serving Transgender Homeless

A recent Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit argues that a Christian homeless shelter can refuse to admit transgender women due to its beliefs.

[PHOTO: Gloved hands hold a cardboard cutout of a house.]
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal nonprofit that the Southern Poverty Law Center says is a hate group, is supporting an Alaska women's shelter's case to turn away a transgender woman. Shutterstock

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is now arguing in federal court to allow homeless shelters to deny services for transgender people. Downtown Soup Kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska, filed the religious freedom lawsuit against Anchorage earlier this year over the city’s nondiscrimination law; a case had been filed against the center after it denied a transgender woman admission to its shelter. The shelter director said that the woman was denied because she appeared drunk, but also that it would never accept a “biological man.”

Illinois’ Fourth District Appellate Court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging a state law that provides funding to Medicaid and state employee health insurance plans to cover abortion services. Anti-abortion groups, represented by the Thomas More Society, are planning to appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

A federal judge could temporarily block a new Idaho law requiring health-care providers to disclose personal information to the state health department about each patient who reports a complication that may be the result of an abortion. Last week, U.S. District Judge David Nye heard oral arguments regarding a possible preliminary injunction against the law, which took effect earlier this summer. A decision is expected in the weeks ahead.

The Indiana Department of Health has until October 2 to object to an order from an Indianapolis judge recommending that a proposed abortion clinic in South Bend be licensed. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance initially sought a license to operate the clinic last year, which was ultimately denied by the state health department. The judge ruled that Whole Woman’s Health provided all the necessary information for a license and that the state health department failed to prove its reasons for nixing it.

Last week, a federal judge said that a Wisconsin state rule excluding health insurance coverage for gender transition-related care violates anti-discrimination provisions of both the federal Civil Rights Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

A federal judge recently ruled that California’s ban on gun shop handgun advertisements shops that are visible outside the store violates the First Amendment. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Tracy Rifle and Pistol and several other licensed firearms dealers after the former owner of Tracy Rifle and Pistol was fined by the California Department of Justice for displaying images of handguns in the windows of his store.

The city of Pensacola, Florida, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and allow a large memorial cross to remain standing on public land in Bayview Park. Earlier this month, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court judge’s ruling that displaying the cross on publicly owned land violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The city of Pensacola is represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Timothy R. Bussey at the Conversation laid out various ways transgender voting rights may be undermined before the 2018 midterms. Bussey notes that fear of discrimination and strict voter ID laws, which reinforce scrutiny of identification cards and gender identity, could potentially lead to the disenfranchisement of thousands of transgender voters across the country.