Yeshiva University must recognize LGBTQ club - New York appeals court

The ruling by the Appellate Division in Manhattan marked the latest setback for the university in its fight to avoid recognizing YU Pride Alliance.

A view of Yeshiva University (photo credit: SCALIGERA/ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA)
A view of Yeshiva University
(photo credit: SCALIGERA/ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA)

A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Yeshiva University must formally recognize an LGBTQ student group, rejecting the Jewish school's claims that doing so would violate its religious rights and values.

The ruling by the Appellate Division in Manhattan marked the latest setback for the university in its fight to avoid recognizing YU Pride Alliance in a case that conservative US Supreme Court justices have signaled interest in reviewing.

The court upheld a judge's ruling that the school did not qualify as a "religious corporation," which would exempt it from prohibitions against discrimination by a place or provider of public accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law.

That law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, age, national origin and some other factors.

THE YESHIVA University High School for Boys in New York (credit: Wikimedia Commons)THE YESHIVA University High School for Boys in New York (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

YU required to recognize LGBTQ club, it doesn't violate First Amendment - court

The unanimous four-judge panel also said requiring Yeshiva to recognize the club did not violate its rights under the US Constitution's First Amendment to the free exercise of religion, saying the law was "neutral and generally applicable."

Katie Rosenfeld, a lawyer for YU Pride Alliance, in a statement said the ruling affirmed that the school "cannot discriminate against its LGBTQ+ students by continuing its refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance."

JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), a nonprofit that supports and empowers Orthodox Jewish LGBTQ youth, praised the court's ruling.

“JQY was heartened by today’s decision and we urge Yeshiva University to consider this matter settled by the New York State Supreme Court. Each continued appeal takes an emotional toll on YU students and on queer Orthodox youth beyond the walls of the university,” said JQY executive director Rachael Fried. 

Our role at JQY is to be the support system for queer youth in the Orthodox community and we will continue to do so wherever and whenever necessary.”

Yeshiva, a Modern Orthodox Jewish university based in Manhattan, in a statement said it would "continue on appeal to defend against the claim that we are not a religious institution."

YU Pride Alliance agreed in September to hold off on forcing Yeshiva to recognize it while the school pursued its appeals after the school briefly halted all student club activities.

It did so after the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision earlier that month declined to block the New York judge's June ruling requiring it to recognize the club.

Four conservative justices dissented including Justice Samuel Alito, who said Yeshiva's First Amendment rights appeared to be violated and that the court would likely take the case up if Yeshiva lost its lower-court appeals.