Yeshiva University will restart clubs without recognizing LGBTQ organization

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Dive Brief:

  • Yeshiva University plans to soon restart clubs after reaching an agreement with a group that wants it to recognize a student LGBTQ organization, the university’s lawyers said Thursday.
  • The university, which is historically affiliated with Orthodox Judaism, last week suspended undergraduate clubs rather than recognize a Yeshiva University Pride Alliance. A trial court had ordered the university to recognize the pride group under New York City human rights law, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request to intervene until after Yeshiva exhausts its appeal options in New York.
  • Now the university and Pride Alliance have agreed the trial court’s order should be stayed, or put on hold, while appeals are heard — potentially all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dive Insight:

The agreement caps a whiplash-inducing set of developments in a closely watched case that pits a university’s religious freedoms against human rights law in New York City.

A trial court found in June that Yeshiva needed to give the Pride Alliance the same treatment as the university’s other clubs, reasoning in part that the 5,500-student institution isn’t a religious corporation under state law and that recognizing a student group doesn’t mean endorsing it. Yeshiva appealed and at the end of August asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene because of approaching deadlines for fall club applications.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor briefly stayed the lower court’s ruling while the entire court evaluated the matter, and religious higher education groups lined up to weigh in on the case. But justices then voted to back away from the case and send it through the appeals process in New York. That meant the lower court’s order to recognize the Pride Alliance was back in place, and Yeshiva responded by suspending all student clubs while it followed steps the Supreme Court laid out for appeal.

The university and Pride Alliance “independently agreed” that the lower court’s ruling should be stayed while the case works its way through the legal process, according to a Thursday news release from lawyers representing Yeshiva.

“We are starting clubs after the Jewish Holidays when students are back on campus,” Hanan Eisenman, a Yeshiva spokesperson, said in a statement. “Now that Pride Alliance has offered a stay, we have sent their lawyers a signed agreement to stay the trial court order. We look forward to working together to quickly resolve this issue.”

The Yeshiva University Pride Alliance agreed to the stay because it doesn’t want the institution to punish students, it said in a statement. The Pride Alliance called the decision a difficult one.

“YU is attempting to hold all of its students hostage while it deploys manipulative legal tactics, all in an effort to avoid treating our club equally,” the statement said. “We are saddened and hurt that the YU administration believes that a group of LGBTQ+ students having a safe place on campus for discussion and support around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity is so objectionable that it would end all students’ clubs and pit students against each other rather than tolerate our presence.”

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