Law Society of B.C. members voted 76 per cent Tuesday against approval of a law school at Trinity Western University over its opposition to sex outside heterosexual marriage.
The vote of the special general meeting isn’t binding on the board of governors, who previously voted to approve the contentious law school in Langley.
Opponents within the legal community argued the Christian university’s community covenant prohibiting “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation against gay and lesbian law students and faculty.
The vote was 3,210 in favour to 968 opposed.
The governors, known as Benchers, made their decision April 11 after extensive debate, a number of legal opinions and a Supreme Court of Canada decision on religious freedom won by Trinity Western University in 2001.
TWU president Bob Kuhn said he’s disappointed by the vote.
“Difficult decisions involving fundamental rights and freedoms should not be decided by popular opinion,” Kuhn said, adding the Benchers’ thorough review “should not be undermined by a vocal group that organizes a special general meeting.”
He said there’s no evidence that religious beliefs of TWU-trained lawyers would affect their ability to serve all clients.
“A just society protects the rights of religious minorities.”
Law Society president Jan Lindsay said Benchers will give the result of the vote “serious and thoughtful consideration.”
The law school already has approval from the provincial government to open but the law society controls who can practise as a lawyer in B.C.
A court challenge is meanwhile underway to overturn the provincial government’s approval, and law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia recently refused to approve TWU’s law school, meaning graduates may not be able to practise law across the country.
“This is a complex issue that engages many points of view,” Lindsay said. “Ultimately, I fully expect that the issues raised will be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
TWU aims to open the new law school by September of 2016.