Court rules Yeshiva University must allow LGBTQ club

Since the Orthodox university is officially nonsectarian, it cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, the judge wrote.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

New York’s County Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Yeshiva University must abide by the law and allow an LGBTQ club to function on campus as all other clubs do.

The judgment was based on the fact that since the Orthodox university is officially nonsectarian, it is bound to comply with the New York City Human Rights Law and cannot discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation.

The institution, ruled Judge Lynn Kotler, must “immediately grant plaintiff YU Pride Alliance the full equal accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University.”

The university had tried to argue that its nonsectarian status – vital to receiving government funding – was solely determined by its admissions procedure, which does not discriminate between students based on faith, color, or sex.

While a large majority of its students is Jewish, it is not a requirement and non-Jewish students do attend the school.

However, although not a “religious corporation,” the university showed numerous examples of how it has always operated as a religious entity “guided by Halacha [Jewish law] and Torah values.” These guidelines should allow it to be exempt from the law based on the Constitutionally-enshrined right to religious freedom, it told the court.

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Citing examples such as YU’s own amended charter from 1967 that took specifically religious education out of its purpose, the judge wrote, “Yeshiva is either a religious corporation in all matters or it is not.”

Furthermore, the judge said, there was no infringement on the Constitution’s first amendment in compelling the institution to recognize Pride Alliance since “formal recognition of a student group does not equate to endorsement of that group’s message.”

The university also argued, to no avail, that it had set new, inclusive policies to support this student community and allowed LGBTQ events on campus, thus denying the plaintiffs’ claim that they had suffered “irreparable harm” due to the administration’s repeated rejection of their request to establish a formal club.

Molly Meisels, a graduate of YU who led a small group of alumni and one current student in their discrimination lawsuit against the school, its president, and the vice provost for student affairs, tweeted her joy at the win.

“I am so proud of my fellow plaintiffs,” she wrote. “This is monumental. Happy Pride.”

Upon bringing the lawsuit in April 2021, Meisels insisted that her motives were pure.

“I want Yeshiva University students, faculty, staff, and administrators to know that I am partaking in this case out of love for the university,” she told The Commentator, YU’s newspaper.

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“The institution has so much potential to be a safe, loving, and supportive environment for queer students and allies. This potential has yet to be realized. Hopefully, this case will provide queer students with the club they deserve,” she said.

A university spokesperson told The Commentator that the school would be taking the case to a higher court.

“The court’s ruling violates the religious liberty upon which this country was founded,” the spokesperson said. “The decision permits courts to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools, hospitals, and other charitable organizations. Any ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong.

“While we love and care for our students, who are all – each and every one – created in God’s image, we firmly disagree with today’s ruling and will immediately appeal the decision.”