Yeshiva University Appeals LGBT Decision

Yeshiva University’s court battle over whether it must provide official recognition and funding to an LGBT pride group continues.

Following its refusal to recognize an LGBT pride group on campus, Yeshiva University was sued for discrimination in 2021. In the lawsuit, the students contended that the University had violated a New York City ordinance that bans discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. In response, the University argued that providing such recognition would violate its sincerely-held religious beliefs, and that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment protects the University from being required to allow an on-campus LGBT organization.

After a trial court ruled against the University, and after the Appellate Division, First Department (a midlevel state appeals court) and the Supreme Court of the United States each declined to grant a stay of the trial court’s ruling, the Appellate Division rejected the University’s appeal. The Appellate Division ruled that the University could not be considered a religious corporation under New York law; in part, the court based this ruling on the fact that the University’s charter identifies it as a non-sectarian institution of higher learning. Furthermore, the Appellate Division noted that the University had already allowed LGBT student groups at three of its graduate colleges.

Following the Appellate Division decision, the university recently appealed to New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.

In the vast majority of cases, the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion overrides laws and ordinances that might compel a faith-based organization to violate its own beliefs. It is hoped that the Court of Appeals will render a decision that upholds this vitally important legal principle.