February 2023 Church & State Magazine - February 2023

N.Y. State Court Orders Religious College To Recognize LGBTQ Group

 

A New York court ruled on Dec. 15 that Yeshiva University (YU), a Jewish institution of higher education, must recognize Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student club.

Members of the school’s Pride Alliance sought recognition from the school and sued the university after it was denied. Club members said YU was in violation of New York City’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. 

A central question in the case has been whether Yeshiva University is a public accommodation under that law. In 1995, YU, a Modern Orthodox university, admitted that it was chartered as a secular educational institution and therefore, as its own attorneys said at the time, it would be bound by human rights laws requiring equal treatment for student groups. But in court, YU’s attorneys argued that the school is a “religious corporation” and thus exempt from the law.

Yeshiva U: Ordered to recognize LGBTQ group (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The First Department Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled unanimously that YU is not a religious corporation and must abide by the law.

Americans United, which joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, applauded the ruling.

“Religious freedom is a shield that protects us — never a sword to harm others,” said AU President and CEO Rachel Laser. “It ensures we all have the freedom to live as ourselves and believe as we choose. The court here did the right thing, reminding Yeshiva University that religious freedom is not a license to discriminate and that it must provide all student clubs — including those of LGBTQ students — with equal treatment and safe spaces under New York’s public accommodations law. Today’s decision is a win for true religious freedom.” (YU Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University) 

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