The YU Pride Alliance in the Supreme Court:
The Facts About Our Lawsuit to Stop YU's Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Students
What is this case about?
This case is and has always been about one thing: equal treatment for an undergraduate LGBTQ student club at YU. YU’s claim that students are threatening its religious freedom is meant to distract attention from its hurtful discrimination against its own students. While YU says it welcomes LGBTQ students, the reality is that YU is actively denying LGBTQ students the same resources that it offers to all other students.
YU’s claim that the student club somehow threatens its religious freedom is also untrue. Requiring YU to recognize the club doesn’t mean it has to change its Torah values. The Pride Alliance is only asking YU not to discriminate against students in providing student activity resources. LGBTQ clubs are important and even life-saving for college students: these clubs are proven to increase LGBTQ students’ academic success and graduation rates, improve their mental health, and help them cope with isolation and discrimination on campus. YU’s LGBTQ students need a club for these same reasons.
What is the YU Pride Alliance?
The YU Pride Alliance is a group of current YU students who want to form a student club, hoping to create a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies to meet and support one another. We’d like to hold activities like a book club and cupcake decorating.
Why is YU denying the rights of LGBTQ students if it claims to welcome them?
In its press release, YU claims it wants “a welcoming environment for all students” and a “more inclusive, loving campus environment.” YU wants to appear and sound to the world as accepting. But YU’s actions don’t match its words. A loving and welcoming environment for all students isn’t possible while YU denies LGBTQ students the same rights and treats them as “less than” than other students. YU’s doublespeak that it accepts LGBTQ students at the same time as it aggressively blocks their efforts to create a safe space for discussion and support is not genuine. YU wants to pick and choose when it’s convenient to accept LGBTQ students. But YU admits LGBTQ students and it accepts full tuition from them: it needs to do more than pay lip service to tolerance and fairness.
What is the environment on campus like now for LGBTQ students?
YU is harming its own LGBTQ students by going to the Supreme Court, and it’s disingenuous for YU to pretend it’s not. LGBTQ students are experiencing harassment, threats, and ridicule on campus, both before and during the lawsuit. Members of the Pride Alliance are also receiving hateful messages. A safe and supportive student group on campus such as the Pride Alliance could help students deal with these challenges and have life-changing impacts.
Why did the New York court rule that YU must allow the LGBTQ+ club?
In June 2022, the court ruled that New York City’s civil rights law requires YU to give LGBTQ students the same resources it gives other students. The court said that all universities and colleges must follow the law: the goal is to make sure students are treated fairly.
Did the Court order YU to change its religious practices?
No. The court didn’t order anything about YU’s religious practices. YU can teach and instill its Torah values, including about sexual orientation. YU can still observe Sabbath on campus, hire Orthodox rabbis and educators, keep separate gender campuses, and keep its Modern Orthodox Jewish roots, just as it always has. The only difference is that the Pride Alliance can now join student club fairs, host meetings and events on campus, receive funding for snacks or supplies, post signs, send emails on student email lists, and be listed in the club directory. The court ordered YU to provide the Pride Alliance with equal benefits—no more, no less. YU already allows LGBTQ clubs in the university, and it has for years. LGBTQ student groups exist at YU’s graduate schools and have not harmed YU’s religious observance at all. The undergraduate club is no different.
Are the students trying to change YU’s religious teachings or views?
No, the students are not trying to change YU’s religious teachings or alter religious views. The students choose to attend YU because they are committed to and care about YU’s mission. They are asking only that YU provide their club the same resources as YU’s 87 other recognized student clubs. When YU allows a Democrat and Republican Club, no one thinks that YU is endorsing a political party, and the same is true for a club for LGBTQ students: YU will always be free to express its Torah values.
Why did the students file a lawsuit in the first place?
The students’ decision to file the lawsuit in April 2021 was a last resort. They tried for years to work with YU in private to resolve things. YU privately acted like it might allow the club, but it never did. It only wanted to sound fair and reasonable without taking any action. The lawsuit was the only option left after the students tried to work collaboratively with YU for years, but YU steadfastly refused their simple request for equal treatment on campus. On the same day that the students filed the lawsuit, they even asked YU to immediately settle the case just by allowing the club. YU refused.
Has YU always refused to follow NYC’s civil rights laws?
No. Until this case, YU publicly promised that it did not discriminate based on sexual orientation. YU’s Undergraduate Student Bill of Rights promises all YU students that they are protected from discrimination under New York City law. YU also hired a major law firm back in 1995 to figure out whether it was legally required to recognize an LGBTQ club: YU’s own lawyers told it that “Yeshiva University is subject to the human rights ordinance of the City of New York . . . . Under this law, YU cannot ban gay student clubs. It must make facilities available to them in the same manner as it does for other student groups.”
Do other religiously affiliated universities have LGBTQ clubs?
Yes. YU’s position in this lawsuit is the complete opposite from its peer universities in U.S. News & World Report’s Top Universities. Fordham University and St. John’s University both recognize undergraduate LGBTQ student clubs in New York City. So do the University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Loyola University Chicago, Pepperdine University, and Creighton University, to name a few. YU is taking an extreme position in this case that is totally out of step with how other religiously affiliated universities treat their LGBTQ students.
Does YU have to allow all student clubs if it allows the LGBTQ club?
No, YU can still decide which clubs to allow. It just can’t deny clubs based on a protected status like race, disability, sexual orientation, veteran’s status, etc. YU can’t deny equal status to a military veterans’ club or a wheelchair accessibility club if its decision is for a discriminatory reason against a group protected under the law. But it can still deny a gun club or a fraternity, because its denial would not be for a discriminatory reason.
Why is this case in front of the Supreme Court?
It shouldn’t be yet, but YU rushed to the Supreme Court—and skipped all the normal steps to get there—because it was losing its case in front of New York judges. YU is represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a group in Washington D.C. that advocated against same-sex marriage and has brought cases to the Supreme Court to block birth control coverage in health plans. Now, YU and Becket are pushing this case to get in front of the Supreme Court again, before New York’s appeals courts even had a chance to decide whether the trial court’s decision was right.
What does YU’s faculty think about YU’s actions towards its LGBTQ students?
YU faculty are concerned that YU’s extreme position towards LGBTQ students will harm YU’s reputation and stature. Over 100 faculty members have signed three different letters warning President Berman that YU’s position is hurting its students, YU’s reputation, undermining its ability to bring in top students and faculty, and might damage its accreditations and its funding.
What’s next in the Supreme Court?
On September 9, the Supreme Court put the lower court’s order on hold until it issues a further order. Right now, the Pride Alliance is waiting for the Supreme Court’s next order to see what will happen with its club.
I want to stand up for fairness and equality: how can I support YU's LGBTQ+ students?
The Pride Alliance is grateful for the support and love from so many in the community and beyond. Please tell President Berman that YU’s actions towards the club are hurting and stigmatizing its very students, as well as YU’s reputation and stature in the world, and you support equal treatment of all students on campus.