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A state appeals court in New York has ruled against Yeshiva University in its efforts to deny recognition to an LGBQ+ club on campus.
On Thursday, a four-judge panel of New York's Appellate Division in Manhattan issued a unanimous ruling that Yeshiva University did not qualify as a religious corporation exempt from the New York City Human Rights Law, and must formally recognize the Y.U. Pride Alliance. The panel also ruled recognition of the LGBTQ+ club would not be a violation of the university's first amendment constitutional rights.
"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," Katie Rosenfeld, Y.U. Pride Alliance's attorney, told Law&Crime.
Students with Pride Alliance had sued after the school failed to recognize the group, and a New York State judge in June ruled in their favor, saying the school was not a strictly religious institution and was not exempt from local anti-discrimination laws. The university argued its Orthodox Judaism beliefs do not permit approval of same-sex relationships.
The case was rejected for emergency relief by the U.S. Supreme Court in September, but only on procedural grounds. The 5-4 majority of justices found the case needed to wind its way through New York's state judicial system before being heard in a federal court. Still, the court did indicate the case was one it would possibly want to hear in the future.
"The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a State from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of the Holy Scripture," Justice Alito wrote in the dissenting opinion for the court's denial of emergency relief.
The dissenting justices said Yeshiva is likely to win if its case comes before the Supreme Court. At the time, the university hailed the loss as a victory.
"The Supreme Court has laid out the roadmap for us to find expedited relief and we will follow their instructions," Yeshiva's president, Rabbi Ari Berman, said in a statement in September, according to The Times of Israel.
The university was in the headlines again when it temporarily halted all club activities on campus rather than recognizing the Y.U. Pride Alliance in response to the ruling. The school sent an email to students saying it would "hold off on all undergraduate club activities during the upcoming chagim [Hebrew for "holidays"] while it immediately takes steps to follow the roadmap provided by the US Supreme Court to protect YU's religious freedom." It later rescinded the ban on club activities.
The university is expected to appeal the decision.