The Law Society of Upper Canada has voted 28 to 21 against the accreditation of Trinity Western University's proposed new law school in B.C.
The vote means graduates from the B.C. university would not be able to practise in Ontario.
“Benchers took this issue very seriously, and did not find it easy to reach a decision,” said the Law Society of Upper Canada's treasurer, in a written statement.
“As members of the legal profession, we recognize the entrenched values of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario’s Human Rights Code, including the right of equality and the right to freedom of religion, and the foundational nature of those rights to our democracy.”
Trinity Western University students must sign a strict Christian covenant governing behaviour, including abstaining from sexual intimacy "that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."
Critics say the covenant essentially bans anyone in a gay relationship from enrolling in the school.
Earlier this month, the West Coast Legal Education Action Fund, a non-profit organization founded to ensure women's equality rights under the law, argued against the university law school's accreditation in B.C.
But the B.C. Law Society voted to accredit the school.
B.C. Law Society decision challenged
However, that fight isn't over.
Earlier this month, Victoria criminal lawyer Michael Mulligan launched a petition to trigger a vote to overturn the decision.
This week, Mulligan announced he had collected and submitted more than 1,000 signatures from B.C. lawyers opposed to the decision, more than twice the number required to trigger a vote.
That means the society has 60 days to hold a special general meeting to allow all members vote on the recent decision.
Mulligan believes the vast majority of lawyers take issue with the university's covenant, which he says is at odds with a core principle of the lawyer's oath to uphold the rights and freedoms of all according to the law, and will vote against it.
"Some of the benchers, while they spoke about finding the policies of this school as being, as I've indicated, as abhorrent and objectionable, some of them cast their vote thinking there was a legal requirement to do so.
"But the majority of the benchers in Ontario disagreed with the majority here, so it may well be influential."
In December, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada gave Trinity Western University preliminary approval for its law school program and said it was up to provincial law societies to decide whether to recognize degrees from the school.