A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order requiring a city funded shelter for homeless women located near the U.S. Capitol to stop denying transgender women access to the facility.
Judge Geoffrey Alprin issued the order after the executive director of New Hope Ministries, which operates the John L. Young Shelter for Women, chose not to contest a request for the restraining order filed by an attorney on behalf of Lakiesha Washington, a transgender woman who was denied admission to the shelter.
D.C. Trans Coalition attorney Jeffrey Light filed a motion seeking the restraining order as part of a lawsuit that accuses the shelter of violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by denying Washington access to the shelter on April 3.
“We don’t do transgenders here,” the lawsuit quotes an employee at the shelter saying when Washington, who was homeless, attempted to enter the shelter. “You have to leave,” the lawsuit quotes the employee as saying.
A decision by New Hope Ministries’ executive director, John Shetterly, not to contest the restraining order followed negotiations between Shetterly and Light earlier in the week, according to a statement issued by the D.C. Trans Coalition. The statement says Shetterly also agreed to provide transgender sensitivity training to the shelter’s staff and was taking steps to provide private bathroom and shower facilities to better serve all shelter clients, including transgender women.
Shetterly told the Blade on April 10 that the John Young shelter was reluctant to accept transgender women because its communal bathroom and shower facilities didn’t provide privacy for shelter occupants. He said the lack of privacy would create a problem in some cases where trans women and other female clients used shower facilities at the same time.
He said New Hope Ministries is supportive of transgender people and would never intentionally discriminate against them.
The D.C. Trans Coalition statement says the staff sensitivity training to which Shetterly agreed is being organized by Earline Budd, an official with Transgender Health Empowerment, a local organization that provides services to the transgender community, and by the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs.
“This is a great day for all transgender people,” Washington said in commenting on the decision by Shetterly to open the shelter to trans women. “Nobody should have to face discrimination and humiliation, and thanks to this case, homeless transgender people will now be safer.”
D.C. Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen, who filed a separate complaint against the John Young Shelter with the D.C. Office of Human Rights charging anti-transgender discrimination, told the Blade that she has dropped her complaint based on the latest actions by New Hope Ministries.
“D.C. has great nondiscrimination laws, but good laws do not equal adequate enforcement,” Bowen said in a statement. “This case showed the need for more vigilant enforcement, and if D.C. Trans Coalition has anything to do with it, enforcement’s gonna happen.”