The Law Society of B.C. has approved Trinity Western University’s proposed law program, despite the evangelical Christian school’s controversial policy banning gay sex.

The Society’s board of governors voted Friday to allow TWU graduates into its admissions program, which is a prerequisite for practising law in B.C.

The 20-6 decision was streamed live online.

Human rights lawyer Joseph Arvay dissented, arguing the university’s “community covenant” discourages gay and lesbian students from attending.

“I object to what I say is the metaphorical sign at the gate of the law school, which says no LGBT students, faculty or staff are welcome,” said Arvay.

“The Law Society, which is charged with respecting the rights and freedoms of all persons in British Columbia, must refuse to approve this law school.”

Trinity Western, located east of Vancouver in Langley, has been widely criticized for its covenant, which demands celibacy of homosexual couples – even those who are legally married.

“In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from… sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,” it reads.

All students and faculty are required to swear an oath to the covenant, and its rules apply off-campus as well. The covenant also bans gossip, vulgar language, pornography and alcohol consumption.

Violations can result in penalties, including expulsion, though TWU said no student has ever been thrown out for being gay.

Law Society president Jan Lindsay declined to comment on the reasoning behind Friday’s vote but said members struggled to find a balance between two sets of Charter Rights: students’ right to equality and the school’s right to religious freedom.

She assured the Law Society ultimately forces all students, regardless of where they graduated, to complete training and evaluation regarding discrimination.

“If anyone feels that he or she has experienced discrimination by a lawyer, he or she should make a complaint,” Lindsay said.

TWU said the Law Society’s decision will let it begin building its long-planned program, touted as the first Christian law school in Canada, for an opening in 2016.

University president Bob Kuhn called the vote “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,” Kuhn said in a statement.

TWU had already earned the ability to grant law degrees from B.C.’s Advanced Education Ministry.