Yeshiva couple sues for housing

by Devin Foxall | 7/27/01 5:00am

A lawsuit challenging Yeshiva University's policy of excluding same-sex couples from university housing would likely have little effect if similar lawsuits were filed in New Hampshire, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union Claire Ebel said.

Two lesbian students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which is part of Yeshiva, sued the university after they were denied housing set aside for married students of Einstein College.

The housing rules discriminated against them, they argued, because, being gay, it was impossible for them to be married.

The suit was dismissed by lower courts because housing benefits were also denied to unmarried heterosexuals. The highest N.Y. court reinstated the lawsuit and returned it to the lower courts.

The two plaintiffs will have to prove that the effect of the university's policy was greater on homosexual couples and thus constituted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

According to legal experts, the lawsuit could open a new avenue for discrimination lawsuits in New York City.

Since the lawsuit was filed in the N.Y. State Court system under N.Y. Statutory and Constitutional Provisions, its consequences concerning such things as employer-provided housing or anti-discrimination laws will remain within the Empire State.

Dartmouth does not have college-subsidized graduate housing delegated solely for married couples. Even if it did, the Yeshiva lawsuit would not have legal ramifications for the college.

"It is virtually impossible to say whether that would have a N.Y. impact on the possibility of a successful lawsuit being filed at Dartmouth by a gay or lesbian couple," Claire Ebel, Executive Director of the N.H. affiliate of the ACLU, said.

"This is because a state court challenge in N.H. would be based on New Hampshire statutes and New Hampshire constitutional provisions," she continued.

New Hampshire would be affected if the lawsuit became a federal challenge, especially if it moved up the federal appellate chain and reached the U.S. Supreme Court, she said. "Then it clearly would have an impact, not only on Dartmouth but on every private university in the country."