Trinity Western approval by N.B. law society criticized

The decision by the province’s law society to accredit the law program at Trinity Western University is being criticized by a group representing gay and lesbian students at the University of New Brunswick.

UNB group for gay and lesbian law students unhappy with decision

The decision by the New Brunswick Law Society to accredit Trinity Western University's law program is being criticized by a group representing gay and lesbian students at the University of New Brunswick.

Trinity Western plans to open a law school in 2016, but the British Columbia university has faced criticism over the covenant it requires students to sign that forbids sex unless within a marriage between a man and a woman.

The council of the New Brunswick Law Society voted on Friday to accredit Trinity Western, which means students graduating from the university’s law program can article in New Brunswick.

But the chair of OUTLaw, a support group for LGTBQ law students at UNB, says the decision is a step backwards.

"A covenant by a university that discriminates against gays and lesbians and does not allow them to be their authentic self — that crosses the line of appropriate conduct," Ted Flett said.

Flett said the law society decision opens the door for universities to discriminate against other groups.

"One of the voting members specifically mentioned, 'What's next, could they prohibit women, could they prohibit blacks? Is this not setting a very damning precedent?'" Flett said.

Law societies in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Nunavut, and Newfoundland and Labrador, have accredited Trinity Western.

In April, Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada voted against accrediting the school. And the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society voted only to accept graduates if the university changes the covenant for law students, or allows them to opt out.

John Malone, the president of the New Brunswick Law Society, says the profession must respect all the communities of lawyers it represents.

The society says it recognizes both freedom of religion and the right to sexual orientation. It adds that lawyers in the province are not allowed to discriminate in their professional duties.