Catholic World Report

Biden administration weakens protections for women’s shelters

Downtown Hope Center, Anchorage, Alaska/ Alliance Defending Freedom

One legal group says that the Biden administration is putting women at risk in removing options for federally-funded women’s shelters to refuse clients identifying as transgender.

The Biden administration on Thursday withdrew a proposed rule that would have allowed federally-funded single-sex shelters to accept clients based on sex, and not gender identity. Under the proposed rule scrapped by the administration, women’s shelters would not have had to accept biological males identifying as transgender females, as a condition of federal funding.

Under the rule proposed by the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), shelters denying access to a client identifying as transgender still had to recommend the client to another shelter that would accept them.

The legal group Alliance Defending Freedom said that safety at women’s shelters could once again be compromised, if they were required to admit biological males on the condition of federal funding.

The Biden administration “abandoned women and girls under the guise of being ‘inclusive,’” ADF senior counsel Kate Anderson said of the rule change.

The U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) had praised the old rule as a “step in the right direction” in providing “needed flexibility” to faith-based shelters that made placements based on sex and not gender identity. The bishops added that that housing “must be available to all people.”

On Thursday, HUD announced it was withdrawing that proposed rule. The agency said that the proposed rule would “subject transgender individuals to inappropriate and intrusive inquiries, deny them accommodations, and subject them to greater harassment.”

“Unfortunately, transgender and gender non-conforming people report more instances of housing instability and homelessness than cis-gender people,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge stated, adding that “no person be denied access to housing or other critical services because of their gender identity.”

“Some of the faith-based organizations we’ve represented in court have faced hostility—and even the threat of closure—by government officials who disagree with their religious beliefs,” Anderson said.

ADF represents the New Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska, a faith-based women’s shelter that received a complaint for not allowing a biological man identifying as a woman to stay the night.

“Unfortunately, HUD’s policy reversal promises to multiply those threats and pit the federal government against the shelters and ministries—across the nation—that are effectively and compassionately meeting the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” Anderson said.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule was itself a change to an Obama-era Equal Access Rule. That 2016 rule stipulated that shelters receiving federal funding accept clients based on their gender identity and allow them “equal access” to facilities such as beds and bathrooms.

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