Thousands of B.C. lawyers have voted for a non-binding resolution to reverse the B.C. Law Society's April decision to accredit Trinity Western University's new Christian law school, which has been criticized for its stance against same-sex relationships.
The resolution directs the board of governors, known as Benchers, to deny law society accreditation to TWU's law school.
Of the B.C. Law Society's 13,000 members, 3,210 voted in favour and 968 were opposed. However, the resolution is not binding, so does not automatically reverse the decision to accredit the law school.
"The decision regarding whether to admit graduates from the proposed law school at TWU is a Bencher decision," said president Jan Lindsay.
"However, the Benchers will give the result of today’s [Tuesday's] members' meeting serious and thoughtful consideration."
The special vote was called over the Christian university’s controversial covenant, which forbids students and staff from engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage between a man and woman.
Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan, who triggered the vote, believes that covenant is discriminatory.
“We are assessing an institution that wishes to discriminate based on sexual orientation," said Mulligan before the vote.
"In my judgment, that is wrong and offensive, and our law society ought not to countenance that or indeed approve the school as they are asking for."
After the vote Mulligan was pleased 77 per cent of his colleagues who voted agreed.
"In my judgment, this gets us on the right side of history of this issue, both from a legal and a moral perspective," said Mulligan.
TWU president defends covenant
But TWU president Bob Kuhn says the university's right to religious freedom must also be protected.
"Difficult decisions involving fundamental rights and freedoms should not be decided by popular opinion," said Kuhn in a press release after Tuesday's vote.
"In a free and democratic society, the faith of TWU graduates cannot preclude them from practising law," said Kuhn. "A just society protects the rights of religious minorities."
Kuhn says the new law school has met every legal standard put before it.
"We have to do a better job of identifying the need for religious freedom in our country, because it's clear people are not giving it the important place it deserves or needs to live in a free and democratic society."
Tuesday's vote was part of a special general meeting by teleconference at 16 locations across the province. It was expected to be the largest meeting ever for the society.
Other provinces have also weighed in on TWU:
- The Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario voted against approving the TWU law school earlier this spring.
- The Nova Scotia bar society only granted conditional acceptance if the school changes the covenant for law students or allows them to opt out.