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Yeshiva University must follow order to recognize LGBTQ club, Supreme Court rules

In a reversal from a previous ruling, the high court said the LGBTQ club must now be recognized despite the university’s conflicting values.

WASHINGTON (CN) — After further consideration, the Supreme Court denied an emergency application from Yeshiva University on Wednesday that attempted to block the court-ordered recognition of an LGBTQ club. 

Last week the justices temporarily granted a stay to the Orthodox Jewish university in New York, allowing the school to ignore a lower court order that demanded the school immediately recognize YU Pride Alliance as an official club. 

Now in an apparent 5–4 vote, the court reversed course and denied relief. Justice Samuel Alito — joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett — wrote a dissenting opinion. 

Yeshiva educates more than 5,000 students every year. While the school was founded to prepare students for the Hebrew Orthodox ministry, it has since added secular degrees. In 2018, students founded YU Pride Alliance to provide support for LGBTQ students on campus. However, the university has never recognized the club officially, claiming doing so would conflict with Yeshiva’s values. Without official recognition, YU Pride Alliance can not hold meetings on campus, access university funding available to other student groups, publicize events on school bulletin boards or participate in student club fairs. 

Club members filed a suit against Yeshiva claiming the school’s failure to recognize YU Pride Alliance violated the New York City Human Rights Law. Yeshiva claims the public accommodation law does not apply to it because it is a religious corporation. A state trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment to the students. Yeshiva was ordered to immediately recognize the club. 

In a rare occurrence on the court’s emergency docket, the justices in the majority explained the court’s ruling. The university asked the high court to grant emergency relief to block the recognition of the club before its appeal had proceeded in the lower court. The court said that while the university has been denied relief today, it may come back after the New York courts review its case. 

“The application is denied because it appears that applicants have at least two further avenues for expedited or interim state court relief,” the majority wrote. 

The court said the university can seek relief by asking the New York courts to expedite consideration of the merits of their appeal or they can file a new motion asking to appeal the stay denial to the New York Court of Appeals. 

“If applicants seek and receive neither expedited review nor interim relief from the New York courts, they may return to this Court,” the majority wrote.

The dissenting justices said the idea that the appeals court would give Yeshiva “a second bite at the apple” even though it already denied them was “dubious.” 

“I doubt that Yeshiva’s return to state court will be fruitful, and I see no reason why we should not grant a stay at this time,” Alito wrote. “It is our duty to stand up for the Constitution even when doing so is controversial.” 

Alito said the state is forcing its views onto the school in a violation of the First Amendment. 

“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,” the Bush appointee wrote. “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.” 

Claiming Yeshiva met all the requirements for a stay, Alito says the university should have been granted one. He further says that the university has four votes to have its case heard before the court and would likely prevail on its arguments. 

“At least four of us are likely to vote to grant certiorari if Yeshiva’s First Amendment arguments are rejected on appeal, and Yeshiva would likely win if its case came before us,” Alito wrote. “A State’s imposition of its own mandatory interpretation of scripture is a shocking development that calls out for review.” 

Alito said the university will now be forced to make a statement with which they disagree. 

“As the Alliance has contended, this would force Yeshiva to make a ‘statement; in support of an interpretation of Torah with which the University disagrees,” Alito wrote. “The loss of First Amendment rights for even a short period constitutes irreparable harm, and the appellate process in the state courts could easily drag on for many months.” 

Oral arguments in the state court are scheduled to take place this fall. 

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