Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer has granted a request for New York’s Yeshiva University to temporarily continue banning an LGBTQ Pride group from being recognized as an official university organization.
“The message of Torah on this issue is nuanced, both accepting each individual with love and affirming its timeless prescriptions. While students will of course socialize in gatherings as they see fit, forming a new club as requested under the auspices of YU will cloud this nuanced message,” the university said in denying official recognition to the group.
But a lower court judge ignored the religious exemptions to New York’s anti-discrimination law and is looking to force the Orthodox Jewish institution to officially recognize the LGBTQ group.
The New York City Human Rights Law exempts religious corporations, but a state trial judge found this year that Yeshiva University had been incorporated “exclusively for educational purposes” and was therefore subject to regulations that prohibit discrimination on multiple grounds, including sexual orientation.
The Orthodox Jewish university argues that such recognition would violate its religious values, but New York appellate courts declined to block the trial judge’s order while appeals proceed. Last month, Yeshiva filed an emergency application with Justice Sotomayor asking the Supreme Court to intervene.
In a filing asking the Supreme Court to step in on an emergency basis, Yeshiva wrote, “as a deeply religious Jewish university, Yeshiva cannot comply with that order because doing so would violate its sincere religious beliefs about how to form its undergraduate students in Torah values.”
But the Pride group says that they aren’t looking to violate any of the university’s policies already in place.
“This ruling does not touch the University’s well-established right to express to all students its sincerely held beliefs about Torah values and sexual orientation,” the group said in its filing at the Supreme Court. At the same time, the filing adds, “it may not deny certain students access to the non-religious resources it offers the entire student community on the basis of sexual orientation.”
The school does not require its officers or professors to be Jewish and it enrolls 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students of all religious backgrounds, the group said. Its affiliated Cardozo Law School has had an official gay students group for years.
The law school and other graduate schools that have LGBTQ clubs are not part of the central administration of Yeshiva University. They’re entirely separate from the undergraduate administration.
If the full court reviews the case, history suggests they’ll side with the university. This court has strongly supported the concept of religious exemptions from secular laws and there should be no reason for that not to continue.