Discrimination complaint filed against shelter’s attorney
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A discrimination complaint was filed against an Anchorage attorney who is defending a homeless shelter from a discrimination complaint.
Attorney Kevin Clarkson is representing the Downtown Hope Center after Samantha Coyle filed a complaint with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission in February, claiming it refused her entry because of her gender identity, KTUU-TV reported .
Pamela Basler, the commission executive director, filed a complaint against the attorney in May, claiming he had been “identified as the source of statements and information, published in various printed media sources, which implied or stated that transgender individuals would not be allowed to be ‘sheltered’ at the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center.”
Clarkson has denied having any business connection with the center and argued that he never sought media attention while representing his client, according to an affidavit. He said he only responded to reporters’ questions.
A city ordinance prohibits public accommodations from discriminating against someone based on gender identity, race, age and sexuality.
In a brief file with the commission on the original complaint, Clarkson argued the shelter is not subject to discrimination laws on public accommodations because it is a private faith-based facility. He also argued the First Amendment protects the shelter’s right to refuse entry to a “biological male” in a shelter for abused and battered women.
The First Liberty Institute, a legal organization based in Plano, Texas, is representing Clarkson in the complaint against him.
“You could file brief with a court, or in this case a commission, trying to advocate on legal grounds and then members of the media quote it and then suddenly you’re going to be charged as well,” said Hiram Sasser, an attorney from First Liberty.
Sasser said he fears a precedent could be set of trying to intimidate an attorney representing a faith-based organization.
Attorneys for Clarkson filed a motion to dismiss the case last week.
Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com