As many of our readers are no doubt aware, Yeshiva University has filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay on a New York court order requiring the university to give official recognition to the YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student club on campus. Pride Alliance has sued YU to force that recognition, which YU says would be a violation of its rights as a religious institution. New York State appellate courts refused to grant a stay of the ruling, so YU is taking the matter to the highest court in the land.

The case has drawn the attention of the Orthodox Jewish community and several amicus curiae briefs have been filed in support of YU. Of particular note is the excellent COLPA brief drafted by the nationally known constitutional lawyer Nathan Lewin and joined in by several other national Orthodox Jewish organizations including Agudath Harabbanim of the United States and Canada, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, the Orthodox Union, Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Rabbinical Alliance of America, and Torah Umesorah (National Society for Hebrew Day Schools).


At issue in the case is the applicability of New York City’s Human Rights Law which, by its terms, prohibits discrimination against students based on various protected grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

In June, the trial court held that although “a religious corporation incorporated under the education law” is expressly excluded from the human rights law, a 1967 amendment to the Yeshiva’s charter describes the school as an “educational corporation under the Education Law of the State of New York,” organized and operated “exclusively for educational purposes.” This, the court noted, represented a departure from YU’s original charter, which had stated that the school existed for exclusively religious purposes “to promote the study of the Talmud.”

The trial court also rejected YU’s constitutional arguments that its rights were not being violated because YU would only be required to provide the Pride Alliance with the same benefits afforded other student groups, not to make a statement endorsing any particular viewpoints with respect to LGBTQ identity or lifestyle.

We have every hope that the Supreme Court will dismiss out of hand this elevation of form over substance. The idea that a citadel of Torah learning where such luminaries as Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik taught is not religious in nature is absurd on its face. As Mr. Lewin argues in the brief, as an educational institution YU speaks to its students and to the world not only with its program of study, but also through which student groups it grants formal recognition.

Furthermore, the Pride Alliance itself concedes that it is up to more than just seeking recognition to obtain equal access to event spaces and other resources on campus. Pride Alliance has also reportedly revealed that plans are in the works for LGBTQ shabbatons and LGBTQ-themed shalach manos and “Pride Pesach” packages.

By any measure, this is a major confrontation for our community. Fortunately we currently have a majority on the Supreme Court that has shown sensitivity to the special problems religious interests face in a rapidly changing society.

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