British Columbia

Trinity Western law school decision appealed by Law Society of B.C.

The B.C. Law Society says its members have spoken, voting not to accredit graduates from the proposed law school due to the Christian university's stance on gay marriage.

Christian university's stance on gay marriage at the heart of accreditation controversy

The B.C. Law Society is appealing last month's ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court, which overturned the society's referendum denying accreditation to graduates from Trinity Western University. (CBC)

The B.C. Law Society is appealing last month's court decision in the ongoing battle over whether graduates from Trinity Western University's proposed law school will be accredited — something the law society opposes because of the school's stance on gay marriage.

At the heart of the controversy is Trinity Western's insistence that students must sign a Christian covenant that states sexual relations are to be confined within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman.

In Oct. 2014, the Law Society held a referendum, and members voted that graduates from TWU's proposed law school would not be recognized.

The referendum overturned an earlier decision by the Benchers, the Law Society's board, which would have recognized TWU's proposed law school.

Last month, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ordered the referendum results quashed, and the original Benchers' decision allowing accreditation to stand.

On Tuesday, the law society filed notice it would appeal, arguing the court erred in finding that proper procedures weren't followed during the referendum.

"We respectfully maintain that it was proper for the Benchers to conclude that the voice of our members is important and we should be guided by that voice on this issue," said law society president David Crossin in a statement.

Charter rights in conflict

Crossin said the case raises important issues about two competing Charter rights: the equality rights of the LGBTQ community, and the university's position on religious freedom.

"The Law Society believes the interests of the public and our profession are best served by our appellate court addressing and resolving this fundamental constitutional issue," he said.

The law society has not yet filed detailed grounds for appeal, which it says it plans to do within 30 days.

In July of this year, an Ontario court upheld the Ontario law society's refusal to accredit TWU law graduates, but in March, Nova Scotia's Supreme Court ruled that its province's law society could not deny accreditation to TWU law grads — a decision that is being appealed.