One night in January, a man, dressed in a nightgown, injured and inebriated, arrived at a church-affiliated women’s shelter in Anchorage, Alaska and asked to be let in for the night. The shelter’s director refused, but gave him money for a taxi to the hospital. He returned the next morning and was again turned away—in part because he arrived before regular admitting hours and in part because, although he is a transsexual who identifies as a woman and goes by the name Samantha Coyle, it is the shelter’s policy not to let biological men spend the night. Thereafter Coyle filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, which, over objections from the shelter’s lawyer that the shelter was protected on religious-liberty grounds, decided to proceed with the investigation. Aylana Meisel and Howard Slugh write:
If this case alone wasn’t disturbing enough, the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission sued [the shelter’s] lawyer after he made comments to a local reporter defending the shelter. According to the commission, publicizing the facts of the case also violated the anti-discrimination law. And so the commission’s fervor also led it to abandon the First Amendment.
The [shelter] acted not out of animus toward the transgendered: it was simply protecting the women sheltered there. The shelter does not discriminate against transsexuals. Biological women are allowed admittance even if they identify as men. Such women have slept at the shelter without incident. The shelter even tries to accommodate biological men to the extent it can do so without jeopardizing its core mission of helping vulnerable women. The shelter has previously offered Coyle himself services, serving him meals and allowing him to shower by himself—he simply could not sleep there.
It is almost certainly true that most supporters of Anchorage’s anti-discrimination statute had good intentions. . . . Most of the statute’s proponents probably believed that it would prevent restaurants from turning prospective customers away because of issues related to their sex or “gender identity.” . . . They almost certainly did not imagine a situation in which it would be used to allow a drunken biological man, with a history of violent criminal behavior, to sleep next to women who had escaped abusive homes and sex-trafficking. . . .
A person can support respect and tolerance for transsexuals while also considering it ludicrous to force [a women’s shelter] to allow a biological male to sleep next to battered women. It is well past time to restore sanity to anti-discrimination law, and the Anchorage Commission can begin by dismissing Coyle’s claim.