Judge strikes a blow in LGBTQ discrimination case against Yeshiva University
Judge Lynn Kotler of the New York County Supreme Court denied a request last week for a preliminary injunction in a case brought forth by the Yeshiva University Pride Alliance, ruling out a quick decision meant to compel the university to recognize the unofficial LGBTQ club in time for the fall semester.
The case will continue in court, with oral arguments scheduled to begin on Oct. 19. In her decision to deny a preliminary injunction, Kotler cited the alliance’s failure to adequately demonstrate the university’s obligation to New York City’s anti-discrimination laws. The final decision will be determined by the court in a summary judgement, as opposed to a full trial. Kotler also denied a request by Yeshiva University to dismiss the case.
For more than a decade, Yeshiva University, a leading Modern Orthodox institution, has refused to recognize LGBTQ groups as legitimate student clubs. In a May investigation, the Forward spoke with LGBTQ students, alumni and faculty about what they described as a culture of fear, reprisal and alienation on campus. In one instance, a Y.U. counselor warned a gay freshman that he would likely be treated as a “second-class citizen” if he came out to his peers.
Although Y.U.’s official policies on discrimination and harassment consider sexual orientation or gender identity and expression to be protected classes, a university statement claims that its “Torah-guided” refusal to permit an official LGBTQ club does not negate its “care and sensitivity” for LGBTQ students on campus. Y.U. receives public funding as an officially nonsectarian institution of higher education, although Kotler noted in her decision that the New York City Human Rights Law, which is at the center of the case, includes an exemption for certain religious institutions.
Molly Meisels, one of several current and former student plaintiffs in the case, called the lawsuit a “last resort” after years of lobbying the university to permit an official LGBTQ group.
“There’s an environment of fear, and not only of fear but just so much silence,” said Meisels, who graduated from Y.U. in January 2021. “To be queer in that environment is to be an outsider.”
In May, Marie-Rose Sheinerman, a former news intern at The Forward, spoke with Meisels in a livestreamed conversation about the lawsuit.