The B.C. Law Society has voted down a motion that would have barred graduates of Trinity Western University's new law school from practising law in B.C. because of the school's ban on gay sex.
The society benchers voted 20-6 against the motion on Friday morning in Vancouver.
“We are very pleased with this outcome,” said TWU President Bob Kuhn in statement shortly after the vote.
“This is also an important decision for all Canadians. It says that there is room in a democratic country like Canada for a law school at a Christian university."
The B.C. government approved the creation of a private faith-based law school at the Fraser Valley's university last December.
But the provincial approval sparked outrage from gay and lesbian advocates because the Christian university has a policy against same-sex relationships.
The school's handbook says students must sign a covenant recognizing that sexual relations should be confined to marriage between a man and a woman.
The West Coast Women's Legal Education Action Fund, a non-profit organization founded in 1985 to ensure women's equality rights under the law, says it's disappointed with the decision.
LEAF had argued that a university that practises discrimination against gay or transgendered students and faculty should not be permitted to grant law degrees on an equal footing with other law schools that don't practise such discrimination.
“TWU’s discriminatory policy effectively excludes LGBTQ students from access to the benefits of a legal education at the university,” said Kasari Govender, LEAF's executive director, in a written statement.
“It also requires women to cede their constitutionally protected reproductive rights, regardless of their own personal aspirations, dignity, and autonomy. These policies are contrary to the laws of Canada, which all lawyers must swear to uphold, and have no place regulating a law school in British Columbia."
Law as a high calling
The school argued the faith component would add a unique dimension to the legal education. It plans to accept 60 students to start in September 2016.
"While there are law schools at Christian universities in other parts of the world, Trinity Western will be the first in Canada. By developing legal studies within a framework of servant leadership, the TWU law program will train lawyers with a focus on community service," said the statement.
"Students will be encouraged to see the profession of law as a high calling of service, and to volunteer with local, national, and global NGO’s that serve underdeveloped nations and the vulnerable."
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.