(LAB) LGBT students and alumni of Yeshiva University, (YU) a private modern Orthodox Jewish research university in New York City, sued the school alleging the university is violating their rights under NYC’s human rights law.
The Washington Post reported that suit was filed April 26 in the New York County Supreme Court on behalf of a group of students collectively as ‘YU Pride Alliance, along with recent graduates including openly bisexual Molly Meisels who told the Post she had come out at a rally on campus in September 2019. She added that she started a feminist club during her second semester on campus, and while it was initially ridiculed, she said, now it is simply accepted as a club.
She emphasized that having an officially recognized LGBT club at Yeshiva University is important in a tight-knit, small campus, especially where the Jewish community emphasizes connection.
“What a queer club provides is community, especially where community is so vital,” Meisels said.
What sets the 3,000 students university apart is that it has registered as a nonsectarian corporation versus the more typical religious-affiliated institution of higher education.
That status according to attorney Katie Rosenfeld, who is representing some of the students in the suit sets YU apart, especially she argues that because the school receives government and state funding, it shouldn’t qualify for religious exemptions. she works at a law firm that specializes in cases on civil rights.
The university released the following statement on the lawsuit:
“At the heart of our Jewish values is love — love for God and love for each of His children,” the statement said. “Our LGBTQ+ students are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, family and friends. Our policies on harassment and discrimination against students on the basis of protected classifications including LGBTQ+ are strong and vigorously enforced. Our Torah-guided decision about this club in no way minimizes the care and sensitivity that we have for each of our students, nor the numerous steps the university has already taken.”
Typically religious institutions and schools will claim exemptions, often granted, from non-discrimination laws, based on religious beliefs or freedoms.
Rosenfeld told the Post that YU’s case is unique because it has had secular status since 1969 and should be treated like any other institution that would not be allowed to discriminate against a group of LGBT students.
“Yeshiva is an outlier in trying to have its cake and eat it, too, in terms of its legal organization by failing to follow what’s required of them under the law,” she said.
Faculty members from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the law school of Yeshiva University named after Benjamin N. Cardozo, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, in a letter addressed to YU President Rabbi Ari Berman, took the school to task calling its decision to ban an LGBTQ club “wrong and unlawful.”