Yeshiva University does not have to admit LGBTQ student groups for now, Sotomayor rule

The Order of Sotomayor, which has jurisdiction over the lower courts in this case, states that the full Supreme Court still looking into the issue We will issue a more permanent order later.

For now, universities are temporarily protected from the need to recognize groups.

The case is complicated by breaking point issues, including a New York state appeals court that has yet to rule on the merits.

A former and current student at the university filed an initial complaint, claiming the school’s position violated New York’s public facilities law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This case is the latest religious liberty dispute to come to the Supreme Court.

Last year, the court’s conservative majority ruled in favor of religious conservatives in two separate disputes, and in 2021, the court refused to consider same-sex couples as potential foster parents. Endorsed foster care agencies.

Justice Samuel Alito has repeatedly called for greater protections for the free exercise of religion. During the speech in July in Rome. “Religious freedom is under attack in many places,” Alito said.

A judge lost a yeshiva case at the lower court level, focusing on whether the university qualifies as a religious institution within the meaning of the New York City Human Rights Act, a public facility regulation that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. It explicitly excludes certain religious groups, with Yeshiva claiming an exception.

However, the court noted that, according to an amendment to the school charter adopted in 1967, universities are considered “educational corporations.”

“Yeshiva organizational documents do not explicitly indicate that the yeshiva have religious purposes,” Judge Lynn R. Kotler ruled that the yeshiva were not exempt from the law.

The court also dismissed the school’s argument that NYCHRL violated a yeshiva’s First Amendment rights, holding that the public facilities law is a neutral law that applies generally to all parties. did.

“It does not cover religious practices, its intent is only to deter discrimination, and places expressly exempt as obviously private or organized under educational or religious law. It applies equally to all public places except religious institutions,” Kotler wrote. .

The judge said the dissenters are seeking “equal access” and the school “does not have to make a statement in support of any particular view.” Kotler also pointed out that some yeshiva graduate schools allow LGBTQ groups, undermining the university’s claims.

In court documents filed with the Supreme Court, the school argued that the lower court’s opinion represented an “unprecedented encroachment on the autonomy of the church of the Yeshiva,” adding that “a highly religious Jewish As a university, the yeshiva argues that it cannot follow its dictates: a sincere religious belief in how to form undergraduates in Torah values.”

An attorney for the Beckett Foundation for Religious Freedom representing the yeshiva said the lower court’s order was an “unprecedented” intrusion into the university’s religious beliefs and a clear violation of the yeshiva’s First Amendment rights. said it was.

The current and former student attorneys behind the challenge, which won in lower court, said the New York Court of Appeals had not yet ruled on the merits, nor had the issue of state law been resolved. It argued that it was premature for the Supreme Court to intervene. Completely resolved.

Attorney Katherine Rosenfeld told the judge in court, “Not only does the petitioner skip the entire state appeal process, but without the benefit of a full briefing or oral argument, the First Amendment on the rocket docket. We are pressuring the courts to address the novel and important issues of the article.” paper.

Rosenfeld said the lower court’s ruling “simply requires” that the university grant the “Pride Alliance” access to the same facilities and benefits as “87 other admitted student groups.” said.

“This ruling does not affect the university’s well-established right to express to all students its sincere beliefs about Torah values ​​and sexual orientation,” said Rosenfeld.

Gillian Weinberg, a student at Yeshiva’s Verkauf Graduate School of Psychology, told CNN in an interview that Verkauf recognizes LGBTQ groups, even though Yeshiva’s faculty does not.

She said Verkauf’s faculty and students are “concerned about the harm President Ali Burman’s actions will cause to the mental health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ students and faculty.”

The New York State Court of Appeals agreed to hear an appeal of the judgment this fall, but refused to suspend the trial court’s ruling, prompting school officials to petition the Supreme Court.

This story has been updated with additional details.


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