By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Yeshiva University must formally recognize an LGBTQ student group, rejecting the Jewish school’s claims that doing so would violate its religious rights and values.
The ruling by the Appellate Division in Manhattan marked the latest setback for the university in its fight to avoid recognizing Y.U. Pride Alliance in a case that conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices have signaled interest in reviewing.
The court upheld a judge’s ruling that the school did not qualify as a “religious corporation,” which would exempt it from prohibitions against discrimination by a place or provider of public accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law.
That law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, age, national origin and some other factors.
The unanimous four-judge panel also said requiring Yeshiva to recognize the club did not violate its rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to the free exercise of religion, saying the law was “neutral and generally applicable.”
Katie Rosenfeld, a lawyer for Y.U. Pride Alliance, in a statement said the ruling affirmed that the school “cannot discriminate against its LGBTQ+ students by continuing its refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance.”
Yeshiva, a Modern Orthodox Jewish university based in Manhattan, in a statement said it would “continue on appeal to defend against the claim that we are not a religious institution.”
YU Pride Alliance agreed in September to hold off on forcing Yeshiva to recognize it while the school pursued its appeals after the school briefly halted all student club activities.
It did so after the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision earlier that month declined to block the New York judge’s June ruling requiring it to recognize the club.
Four conservative justices dissented including Justice Samuel Alito, who said Yeshiva’s First Amendment rights appeared to be violated and that the court would likely take the case up if Yeshiva lost its lower-court appeals.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Stephen Coates)