The Supreme Court issued an order by Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Friday allowing New York Yeshiva University to refuse to recognize an LGBTQ student club.
The Orthodox Jewish university is fighting an order from a New York judge that said the campus must comply with the city’s human rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In an emergency appeal filed with Sotomayor, who oversees such motions for New York, the university urged the high court to step in and rule that she has a religious liberty right to deny recognition to YU Pride Alliance.
The order does not carry the same weight as a final ruling, but it can give judges more time to decide.
in question in Yeshiva University vs YU Pride Alliance is whether the Manhattan campus is a “public accommodation” and therefore subject to the New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Acting on a lawsuit brought by several Yeshiva students, a state judge ruled in June that civil rights law applied to the private university, so it must offer recognition and a meeting space for the LGBTQ club.
The university had argued that it was a “religious corporation” and that it was not subject to the public accommodation law. A New York state appeals court refused to lift the judge’s order, so the university filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court on August 29.
“The Torah guides everything we do at Yeshiva, from how we educate students to how we run our dining halls to how we organize our campus,” Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, said in a statement. “We deeply care for and welcome all of our students, including our LGBTQ students.”
But the university said it should not be forced to “put its stamp of approval on a club and activities that are inconsistent with the school’s Torah values.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty appealed on behalf of the university.
“Without an immediate suspension of the permanent injunction issued below, the nation’s leading Jewish university will be forced to give official recognition to a student organization in violation of its sincere religious beliefs and Torah values. This is an unprecedented intrusion into the autonomy of a religious organization and a serious violation of the First Amendment,” Eric Baxter, Becket’s lead attorney, told the court.
Lawyers for the LGBTQ students who brought the case urged the Supreme Court to step aside on procedural grounds. They said the university should not be allowed to “leapfrog” on the New York state appeals courts, which have not ruled on legal arguments in the case.
Lawyers for the students also said the university is exaggerating the impact of allowing one more club on campus.
The YU Pride Alliance seeks “access to the same facilities and benefits as its other 87 recognized student clubs. This ruling does not affect the well-established right of the university to express to all students its sincere beliefs about Torah values and sexual orientation,” said Debra L. Greenberger, a New York civil rights attorney representing the students. .
All that “is required is to provide the student club with access to a club classroom, bulletin board or trade show booth as one step in a legal process,” he said, “not because it supports the mission of the booster club and acceptance for LGBTQ students.”