U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court requires Yeshiva University to recognize LGBTQ student club as state court review continues

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block a trial judge’s order requiring Yeshiva University to recognize an LGBTQ student club at its undergraduate campus while litigation continues.

The Supreme Court said the university could ask the justices for relief a second time “if, upon properly seeking expedited review and interim relief from the New York courts, applicants receive neither.” Five justices joined the decision to deny relief at this time, including conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The trial judge had ordered Yeshiva University to recognize the YU Pride Alliance under the New York City Human Rights Law, which bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.

Yeshiva University argued that it is exempt from the law because it is a religious organization, and it has a free exercise right to reject recognition of the club, consistent with its Jewish Orthodox values.

The trial judge had reasoned that the university had to abide by the law because it was incorporated as an educational institution instead of a religious entity, the New York Times reported. And the judge found no First Amendment violation.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor had paused the trial judge’s mandate Sept. 9. The full court vacated her order.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

“Does the First Amendment permit a state to force a Jewish school to instruct its students in accordance with an interpretation of Torah that the school, after careful study, has concluded is incorrect?” wrote Alito in the Sept. 14 dissent.

“The answer to that question is surely ‘no.’ The First Amendment guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion, and if that provision means anything, it prohibits a state from enforcing its own preferred interpretation of Holy Scripture. Yet that is exactly what New York has done in this case, and it is disappointing that a majority of this court refuses to provide relief.”

The dissent said Yeshiva University had already sought interim relief from New York’s appellate division and top court, but both courts “refused without providing a single word of explanation.” Alito said a denial of interim relief was a final order that allows the Supreme Court to grant a stay. If it isn’t a final order, Alito said, “it is far from clear” that the Supreme Court can’t act.

Alito said at least four justices would vote to grant certiorari if Yeshiva University’s First Amendment arguments are rejected on appeal.

“Yeshiva would likely win if its case came before us,” Alito said.

Yeshiva University is represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The case is Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance.

Besides the New York Times, publications with coverage include the Washington Post, Law360, Law.com, the Associated Press and SCOTUSblog.

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