Gay students at Yeshiva U. plan to take case to N.Y.s high court

NEW YORK — Gay and lesbian students, having lost the latest round in their legal battle with the nation's oldest and largest Jewish university, are vowing to take the case to New York's highest court.

The vow came after the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court denied an appeal by two lesbian students and the gay and lesbian student organization claiming that Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine discriminates against same-sex couples by barring them from residing in its married student housing.

The plaintiffs, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the Bronx, N.Y., medical school in 1998.

Yeshiva University is commonly thought of as an Orthodox institution, but except for its Orthodox rabbinical school, it is officially nonsectarian and thus must comply with all anti-discrimination laws.

The case against Yeshiva was dismissed last year, and earlier this month, the appellate division ruled that the university's policy does not have a disparate impact on homosexuals.

w"We have maintained all along that our student housing policies are fair and nondiscriminatory," the statement continued.

However, Michael Adams, the associate director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, called the recent decision "ridiculous" and said the students would appeal to the state's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.

"The basic grounds for the appeal are that the decision is wrong and it defies all logic and common sense to state, as this court did, that requiring a marriage certificate for housing affects gay couples the same as unmarried heterosexual couples," said Adams.

Sara Levin and Maggie Jones, the two students who are plaintiffs in the case along with the medical school's gay and lesbian organization, did not return calls requesting comment.

Gay and lesbian students at the university, like other students, are eligible for university housing, but their nonstudent partners are not. The plaintiffs claimed that the practice of requiring marriage certificates for nonstudent partners was discriminatory because homosexual couples are unable to legally marry and thus cannot be eligible.

New York City anti-discrimination laws prohibit any policies that have a disparate impact on homosexuals.

However, the university maintained that since unmarried heterosexual couples are also not eligible for housing, the policy equally affects gay and heterosexual students.

In dismissing their case in the state's Supreme Court in March 1999, the judge, Franklin Weissberg, wrote that the university is not responsible for the fact that gay and lesbian students are unable to legally marry.

"The plaintiffs' real complaint lies not with the defendants but, rather, with the refusal of the New York State Legislature to sanction same-sex marriages," wrote Weissberg.