- The law school is secular, but some fear SCOTUS case could dissuade applicants
- Law faculty have pushed the university to recognize an undergraduate LGBT student group
(Reuters) - The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is taking steps to distance itself from the policies of its parent institution Yeshiva University, after Yeshiva's legal efforts to block an undergraduate LGBT student group reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
More than 50 Cardozo law faculty have signed a letter opposing the university's ban, and the law school is launching a six-week course devoted to the LGBT civil rights movement, which it announced to students as the Supreme Court was weighing the case.
"Cardozo Law School will continue to support our LGBTQ+ students, faculty, administrators and alumni fully and without reservation," Cardozo spokesperson John DeNatale said on Monday. He declined to comment on the Yeshiva litigation.
The law school has previously emphasized that the university's undergraduate policies do not apply to Cardozo and its curriculum is not religious. DeNatale noted that Cardozo has its own LGBT student group, OUTlaw, and that students can work on LGBT rights cases for credit.
A Yeshiva University spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. On Friday the university suspended all undergraduate student club activities.
Undergraduates at Yeshiva University have been trying for several years to officially establish an organization called the Y.U. Pride Alliance. But the Manhattan-based Modern Orthodox Jewish university has called the group “inconsistent with the school's Torah values and the religious environment it seeks to maintain."
A New York state judge in June ruled that the university is subject to a city anti-discrimination law and cannot bar the club. Yeshiva appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 on Sept. 14 that the university must recognize Y.U. Pride Alliance as a student club while the school pursues a lower court challenge.
Members of the law school faculty have been pushing Yeshiva president Ari Berman to recognize the undergraduate club for months, said Cardozo professor Edward Stein, arguing that banning it is “legally and ethically wrong." More than 50 signed an Aug. 31 letter to Berman imploring Yeshiva to embrace the Y.U. Pride Alliance.
Stein, who is openly gay and teaches a law course on sexual orientation and gender, said he has never felt constrained by the law school in his teaching or scholarship. Unlike Yeshiva's undergraduate population, Cardozo's student body is demographically similar to other New York law schools and its curriculum is not religious, he said.
“I do think some of us are concerned about some sort of residual reputational harm to us as being part of a university that is taking this disturbing position about LGBTQ rights,” he said.