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A building at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has upheld a decision allowing graduates of a controversial Christian university law school to practice in the province.

On Tuesday, the court dismissed an appeal from the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society fighting accreditation for graduates of Trinity Western University law school, which is under scrutiny for forbidding sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage.

The barrister's society was also ordered to pay $35,000 in legal costs to the university, which welcomed the decision as a victory for freedom Tuesday.

"This recognition of the importance of freedom is something that we should celebrate, whether we're religious or not," said Amy Robertson, a spokeswoman for the university.

Trinity Western's plans to open a law school in Langley, B.C., has drawn criticism because students will be required to sign a "community covenant," or code of conduct.

It includes requiring students to abstain from gossip, obscene language, prejudice, harassment, lying, cheating, stealing, pornography, drunkenness and sexual intimacy "that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

Law societies in Nova Scotia, Ontario and B.C. have all opposed granting accreditation to Trinity law school graduates, sparking legal battles that have pitted freedom of religion against equality rights.

In April 2014, the Nova Scotia barristers' society amended its regulations to say the requirement represents unlawful discrimination against gays and lesbians. As a result, graduates of the law school would not be allowed to article or practise law in Nova Scotia.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge later decided the law society exceeded its jurisdiction and said the move also amounted to an infringement on religious freedom.

The appeal court upheld that decision, saying the society did not have the authority to "issue rulings whether someone in British Columbia 'unlawfully' violated the Human Rights Act or the charter.

"Trinity Western's activity occurred in British Columbia, and was outside the reach of Nova Scotia's Human Rights Act. As a private university, Trinity Western was not subject to the charter of rights. Trinity Western did not act 'unlawfully' under either enactment," the decision said.

Society president Daren Baxter said the ruling is disappointing, but it's too early to know if they will take the legal battle to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"We have legal counsel that are reviewing the decision... and we will of course have to determine what would be the benefits of an appeal," said Baxter in an interview.

Robertson said the court's decision upholds freedom of conscience and religion.

"I think that one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians is the freedom to live peacefully together in a diverse, pluralistic society, where we are committed to respecting one another even if we don't understand or agree with one another," said Robertson in a phone interview.

In a statement, the university said all students — including LGBTQ students — are welcome to attend the university and be open about their identities.

It noted that it was not making a statement about LGBTQ people, but instead was making a statement about "traditional Christian marriage."

In June, Ontario's top court dismissed an appeal from the university of a decision that denies its proposed law school accreditation in the province.

A panel of three appeal court judges found that while the university's religious freedom had been infringed upon, the institution discriminated against the LGBTQ community.

Robertson said the university plans on appealing that decision and it will likely end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Trinity Western is still awaiting an appeal court decision in B.C. A law society in that province has appealed a Supreme Court of British Columbia decision that recognizes graduates of the university.

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