VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The B.C. government has approved the creation of a new law school at Trinity Western University in Langley B.C., despite concerns from gay rights advocates over its plans to enforce a policy prohibiting “gay intimacy” among staff and students.
The private, faith-based university received approval Wednesday from the Ministry of Advanced Education, two days after it won preliminary approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.
The school requires all students, staff and faculty to sign a covenant agreeing to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Trinity Western University has argued that students choose to adhere to the policy when they apply.
Clayton Ruby, a Toronto-based lawyer said the school’s policy is “a simple act of discrimination against gays and lesbians,” and threatened to file a lawsuit if the school received final approval from the B.C. government.
On Tuesday, Justin Trottier at the Centre For Inquiry Canada said he was worried the university’s religious views would mean the new law school would be a less welcoming environment for LGBT students and would end up producing lawyers with an anti-gay bias.
Criminal defense lawyer Eric Gottardi said that as a private institution that students choose to apply to, the policy isn’t strictly unconstitutional.
“But people go to law school, I think, to think very liberally about rights, and civil rights, and certainly you can talk in one breath about the freedom of religion, but [also] in the Charter is the protection of equality rights,” said Gottardi.
“What exactly are they going to be teaching about Section 15 [equality rights] of the Charter at Trinity Western law school?”, questioned Gottardi.
“With the preliminary approval of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Review of the Degree Quality Assessment Board on the quality of the program, the Ministry will now review the proposed degree,” said Virk.
“As the Minister of Advanced Education, once I have studied both reviews, I will be able to make a final determination,” he said.
Trinity Western University maintains a satellite campus in Bellingham, Wash., where students are required to comply with the school’s gay intimacy ban.