Attorneys with First Liberty Institute and the law firm Brena, Bell & Clarkson announced today that the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission has dropped its charges against the Anchorage law firm.
The Equal Rights Commission had attempted to silence attorney Kevin Clarkson, who was representing the Downtown Hope Center against a separate charge being brought by the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission.
In attempting to silence Clarkson from speaking to the media about his client’s case, the commission interfered with the firm’s ability to defend the religious liberty of its client. It also attempted to act, as a governmental agency, to squelch the attorney’s free speech rights.
Clarkson had been defending the women’s homeless shelter at the Downtown Hope Center, after a man who identifies as a woman sought overnight shelter in March of 2018 in a place reserved only for women.
The man had filed a complaint through the commission, accusing the shelter of discriminating against him, although he had alternatives.
“The right to legal counsel is a hallmark of our republic,” said Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty, a group that defends people in such freedom cases. “Our legal system is premised on the idea that everyone has legal rights and that the government must afford them a full and fair opportunity to defend themselves. We are grateful that the AERC abandoned these baseless charges.”
The Downtown Hope Center is supported by numerous churches and has several services open to all genders, but at night, women roll out mats on the floor and sleep elbow-to-elbow. Many of the women are vulnerable, some are abused and others are seeing shelter from human trafficking.
The organization also operates a church on the property and does not provide any commercial services.
The man who identified as a woman was actually not turned away because he was a man, but because he was intoxicated and arrived at a time when the shelter wasn’t accepting new admissions. The volunteers gave him cab fare to get to a hospital for care for injuries sustained in an altercation that occurred at another location.
“We are pleased that we can now continue representing our clients with the appropriate legal counsel every citizen deserves,” said Kevin Clarkson on behalf of BBC. “Thankfully, the AERC recognized that it had overstepped its authority and properly brought this matter to an appropriate resolution.”