Council LGBTQIA+ Caucus urges Yeshiva University to recognize Pride Alliance

Five members of the New York City Council LGBTQIA+ Caucus delivered a letter to Yeshiva University on September 27 demanding that the school recognize an LGBTQ college student club on campus amid a protracted legal battle over whether to require it. to the school that recognizes the group.

“Simply put, your refusal to recognize this group is a blatant defiance of the spirit and letter of the New York City Human Rights Law,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, who he serves as president of Yeshiva University. “As a non-sectarian educational institution, as its charter indicates, Yeshiva University is not exempt from human rights law and cannot deny recognition to a group of students on the basis of religious freedom.”

The letter was signed by five of the seven members of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus: co-chairs Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn and Tiffany Cabán of Queens; Erik Bottcher of Manhattan; Chi Ossé of Brooklyn; and Lynn Schulman of Queens. Two other LGBTQ city lawmakers, Kristin Richardson-Jordan of Brooklyn and Republican David Carr of Staten Island, did not sign the letter at the time it was delivered, though a council spokesman said they might be busy and that doesn’t mean necessarily that he had no intention of signing.

The school has insisted that it does not necessarily have to recognize the group because, as a religious organization, it should be exempt from complying with the public accommodations provision of the city’s Human Rights Law and has a First Amendment right to refuse recognition. Pride Alliance. However, a state trial judge found that the school’s 1967 certificate of incorporation states that it “is and continues to be organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes,” which would be inconsistent with a “purely private” religious corporation that would typically be exempt from compliance with the Human Rights Act public accommodation provision that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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The case recently went to the US Supreme Court, which did not make a determination on the merits of the case, instead noting that the university did not first seek a stay from the state courts before going to the Supreme Court. . The Supreme Court ruled that the group must be recognized while the case continues to be litigated, although the school responded by banning all groups for the time being.

The Pride Alliance, in turn, has said it will back off for now to avoid charging other clubs on campus, but the legal fight continues nonetheless.

In the letter, city lawmakers underscored the critical role of campus LGBTQ groups for young adult students coming to terms with themselves, including their sexuality and gender identity, particularly at a time when homophobia and transphobia continue to affect students across the country.

“These students ask for nothing more than a safe space to gather,” city lawmakers wrote in the letter. “When many of us were students, we either had fledgling queer organizations to support our communities or none at all. We recognize the importance of being in community, especially in a university setting, and having a forum to share resources.”

The letter continued: “For many LGBTQIA+ youth, college is a place where they can finally explore and embrace their sexuality and gender identity in a safe space without judgment and meet people with similar identities to their own. Queer groups like the YU Pride Alliance encourage and nurture that safe space while providing resources, from tips on how to talk about being gay with family members to sexual health resources, for LGBTQIA+ students.”

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Others copied on the letter included Jon Greenfield, the university’s director of government relations; Annabel Palma, President of the New York City Commission on Human Rights; JoAnn Kamuf Ward, deputy commissioner for politics and external affairs at the Commission on Human Rights; and the Pride Alliance.

The Yeshiva University press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on September 28.