Yeshiva University Seeks to Block LGBTQ Club

David H. Zysman Hall at Yeshiva University in New York City, Oct. 25, 2014 – Photo: Gigi Altarejos/Creative Commons

New York’s Yeshiva University is trying to bypass a state court ruling that orders the university to recognize a gay pride group on campus.

One of the country’s oldest Jewish Orthodox schools in the nation, the New York-situated Yeshiva petitioned the Supreme Court to allow them to block the YU Pride Alliance from being granted official recognition at the university.

In an “emergency petition” sent to the court on August 29, Yeshiva cites that it is a “deeply religious university,” and as such, believes it should be allowed to deny the group on the basis of religious beliefs.

On June 14, the New York State Supreme Court had ruled that Yeshiva was not actually a “religious institution” under New York law, indicating that the university had to comply with New York City Human Rights Laws banning all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. Yeshiva attempted to appeal the decision to the next higher court but was denied.

Typically, Yeshiva would legally have to approve the YU Pride Alliance’s club application before a September 12 deadline. But this proved unacceptable to the university, leading them to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for its opinion.

In its filing, Yeshiva maintains that YU Pride Alliance is more than an LGBTQ club, stating it is a “government-enforced establishment” that is “irreparably damaging” the school and its religious values.

“Yeshiva made this decision [to block the club] in consultation with its Roshei Yeshiva, or senior rabbis. And all parties agree that Yeshiva has a deeply religious character as a Jewish university,” the petition to the Supreme Court reads.

“If Yeshiva is forced to comply, the infringement of its religious liberty, and injury to its reputation as a bastion of Torah values and flagship Jewish university, will be irreparable. A stay to maintain the status quo is thus essential.”

In spite of Yeshiva’s aggressive court actions, YU Pride Alliance has moved forward with planning club activities

If allowed to continue its operations, the club will hold LGBTQ “shabbatons” and give out gift bags on Jewish holidays with “LGBTQ-themed” gifts.

Kate Rosenfeld, a lawyer for the club, told NBC News that previous court rulings compelling Yeshiva to accept the group were correct.

The fact that the university continues to fight against the YU Pride Alliance from fully establishing itself was “disheartening.”

“While the University is free to hold its own religious beliefs,” Rosenfeld said, “it can’t provide some students full access to its facilities — meeting spaces, bulletin boards, club fairs — and deny others the same benefits because they are LGBTQ.”

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