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Jewish university, LGBT club reach temporary truce in ongoing legal battle

Yeshiva University
A Yeshiva University sign is located at one of the school's campuses in New York City. |

An LGBT student organization and New York City Orthodox Jewish university have agreed to halt enforcement of a court order requiring the school to recognize the group as an official on-campus club while the school appeals its case. 

Becket law, a non-profit interest firm representing Yeshiva University, announced Tuesday that YU Pride Alliance has agreed that a "stay should be entered to allow Yeshiva to appeal a ruling against it without the threat of sanctions."

The LGBT group's decision to approve the request for a stay to restore club activities was sent in a press release to the school's newspaper, The Commentator. The club sued the school, claiming refusal to grant official status violated a city law preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The announcement follows the university's decision last Friday to temporarily halt all club activities in light of the state court's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction while the litigation continues. That announcement came after the U.S. Supreme Court vacated an order that temporarily halted the state court's June ruling. 

"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 statement reads.

Hanan Eisenman, director of communications at Yeshiva University, said in an email newsletter that the school's club activities will resume once the students return to campus after the Jewish holidays. 

"Now that Pride Alliance has offered a stay, we have sent their lawyers a signed agreement to stay the trial court order. We look forward to working together to quickly resolve this issue."

Students with the YU Pride Alliance filed the lawsuit last year after the university denied their requests to register as a student club. A New York State Supreme Court ruled in June that Yeshiva University must recognize the group as a formal student organization. 

New York Supreme Court First Judicial District Judge Lynn Kotler's ruling permanently restrained Yeshiva University "from continuing their refusal to officially recognize the YU Pride Alliance as a student organization because of the members' sexual orientation or gender and/or YU Pride Alliance's status, mission, and/or activities on behalf of LGBTQ students." 

The judge argued that the university must award the same privileges to the Pride Alliance group that it does other student clubs under New York City human rights law. 

An Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court declined an appeal, and the university sought relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted the school a temporary reprieve, which remained in effect until the court ruled last Friday in a 5-4 vote that it was too early to get involved in the case. The court left open the possibility that the school return once the case was heard in lower courts. 

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented, arguing that the school's right to religious freedom justified its response to the student group.

"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," Alito wrote in the dissent.

In a statement to The Christian Post last Friday, Yeshiva University President Rabbi Ari Berman advocated for the right of every university to work with students to establish clubs that align with the school's religious values. 

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