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LGBTQ student group strikes deal with Yeshiva University, allowing other clubs to operate

The university halted all club activity across campus to avoid complying with a court order that would have forced it to recognize an LGBTQ student club.
A Yeshiva University campus building in New York on Oct. 7, 2020.
A Yeshiva University campus building in New York on Oct. 7, 2020.John Lamparski / Getty Images file

The LGBTQ student group at Yeshiva University made the “painful” decision to pause its efforts to receive official university recognition so that the university would allow the rest of its student clubs to continue operating, the group said Thursday. 

The Supreme Court last week left intact a June state court order that directed Yeshiva University to officially recognize the Pride Alliance, which would provide the student club with access to the same resources as the school’s other 87 clubs.

But rather than recognize the club, Yeshiva University officials directed students to halt all undergraduate club activities while it resumed the suit in state court “to protect YU’s religious freedom.”

The Pride Alliance described the move by the university as an attempt “to hold all of its students hostage while it deploys manipulative legal tactics, all in an effort to avoid treating our club equally,” according to a statement released Wednesday, alongside the club’s request to stay, or halt, the state court order so the other student clubs could continue their activities.

“This was a painful and difficult decision,” the Pride Alliance said in the statement. “We are agreeing to this stay while the case moves through the New York courts because we do not want YU to punish our fellow students by ending all student activities while it circumvents its responsibilities.”

The group continued: “We are saddened and hurt that the YU administration believes that a group of LGBTQ+ students having a safe place on campus for discussion and support around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity is so objectionable that it would end all students’ clubs and pit students against each other rather than tolerate our presence.”

Hanan Eisenman, director of communications at Yeshiva University, said in a statement that student clubs would resume after the Jewish holidays next week. 

“Now that Pride Alliance has offered a stay, we have sent their lawyers a signed agreement to stay the trial court order,” Eisenman said, according to a news release. “We look forward to working together to quickly resolve this issue.”

The university has maintained that being forced to recognize an LGBTQ club would be a “clear violation” of its First Amendment rights — an argument that religious business owners, employers and schools have made increasingly in response to laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Rabbi Ari Berman, the university’s president, said after the Supreme Court’s ruling that the university “simply seeks that same right of self-determination” as other religious institutions. 

At the same time, he said, the university’s “commitment and love for our LGBTQ students are unshakeable.”

Throughout the course of the legal battle, the Pride Alliance said that it has received support from over 1,000 university community members and over 200 faculty members who have signed letters urging the university to recognize the club. 

“We came to YU because we want to be part of this institution,” the Pride Alliance said in its Wednesday statement. “YU accepted us as students, YU collects the same tuition from us as everyone else, and we will not be second-class citizens. We hope that YU will eventually accept our group for what it is: a safe place for discussion and support that LGBTQ+ students need on the YU campus to thrive.”

The university will now have the opportunity to appeal the June ruling in state court.

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