Thursday, June 16, 2022

Yeshiva University Must Recognize LGBTQ Student Group

In YU Pride Alliance v. Yeshiva University, (NY Cty. Sup.Ct., June 14, 2022), a New York state trial court held that New York City's public accommodation law requires Yeshiva University to officially recognize as a student organization an LGBTQ group, YU Pride Alliance.  The University must immediately grant the organization the full and equal treatment accorded to other student organizations.  The court rejected the University's claim that it is exempt from coverage under the definitions in NY Admin Code §8-102 which excludes from coverage a "religious corporation incorporated under the education law."  While Yeshiva University is incorporated under the education law, according to the court:

Yeshiva's organizing documents do not expressly indicate that Yeshiva has a religious purpose. Rather, Yeshiva organized itself as an "educational corporation" and for educational purposes, exclusively.... [T]he inquiry must focus on the purpose of the institution, which is typically expressed in a corporation's organizing documents. There may be schools organized under the education law that have a stated religious purpose so that they are exempt.... Since Yeshiva has not done so, the court does not need to reach this issue.

The court went on to hold that applying the public accommodation provisions of the New York City Human Rights Law to Yeshiva does not violate its First Amendment free exercise or free speech rights, saying in part:

Assuming arguendo that Yeshiva's refusal to recognize an LGBTQ student group is part of its exercise of religion, the NYCHRL's impact on Yeshiva's exercise of religion is only incidental to the NYCHRL's ban on discrimination. There can be no dispute that the NYCHRL is a neutral law of general applicability. It does not target religious practice....

... Yeshiva's Free Speech rights will not be violated by application of the NYCHRL. Formal recognition of a student group does not equate with endorsement of that group's message....

Washington Examiner reports on the decision.