By: Jonathan Levin  | 

YU Loses in New York Appellate Court

The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court upheld a June order directing Yeshiva University to recognize the YU Pride Alliance Thursday. 

The court ruled that YU does not meet the legal standard of a religious corporation exempt from the New York City Human Rights Law (NYHRL) and that recognition of an undergraduate LGBTQ club does not intrude on YU’s First Amendment rights.

The decision, made by Justices Troy Webber, Lizbeth González, Manuel Mendez and Bahaati Pitt-Burke, will not require YU to immediately recognize the Alliance, as the groups previously signed a permanent stay that will remain in effect until all appeals, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, are decided.

In the ruling, the court stated that YU does not meet the standards of a religious corporation under New York State’s education or religious corporation laws. The definition of such groups under the education law, the court said, are educational institutions “operated, supervised or controlled” by a religious organization and certified as such to the state commissioner of education, while a religious corporation is an institution created and intended for religious worship.

“A plain reading of the above statutes,” stated the court, “along with Yeshiva’s proffered statements to public authorities contained in the record, show that Yeshiva does not qualify under either definition.”

The court also denied the university’s appeal on First Amendment grounds, stating that recognizing the group does not intrude on YU’s “asserted right to decide matters of ‘faith and doctrine,’” given that the university recognized LGBTQ groups at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine despite not endorsing those groups.

“The record demonstrates that Yeshiva already recognizes LGBTQ+ student organizations at three of its graduate schools, which are legally part of Yeshiva’s corporation, has done so for over 25 years, and made clear as early as 1995 that this recognition did not mean Yeshiva endorsed or accepted the views of those student groups.”

“As such, and in light of Yeshiva’s corporate purpose as an institution of higher education, we find that denial of recognition for the Pride Alliance is not ‘essential’ to Yeshiva’s ‘central mission.’”

Katie Rosenfeld, the attorney for the Alliance, welcomed the decision.

“We welcome today’s ruling … affirming that Yeshiva University cannot discriminate against its LGBTQ+ students by continuing its refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance and affirming the trial court’s ruling that YU must comply with the New York City Human Rights Law,” stated Rosenfeld in a statement provided to The Commentator. 

“We hope that the University will accept the Pride Alliance's invitation to resolve the lawsuit by finally recognizing an authentic, student-run, mutually acceptable LGBTQ undergraduate student club that operates like all other clubs at YU.”

Hanan Eisenman, a spokesperson for YU, said that YU will continue its appeals.

“Yeshiva is disappointed in the court’s ruling,” stated Eisenman, “and will continue on appeal to defend against the claim that we are not a religious institution.”

YU will now appeal its case to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which previously denied YU’s request for a stay on the June order on Sept. 14, ruling YU needed to go through state courts first.

YU’s attorney Eric Baxter and the Pride Alliance did not respond to The Commentator’s immediate requests for comment.

This is a developing story 

Sruli Friedman, Ariel Kahan and Elishama Marmon contributed to this story