TALLAHASSEE — A proposal critics say targets Islam passed the House Thursday despite heated opposition from two Jewish Democratic lawmakers who called the bill unnecessary and discriminatory.
The measure bans courts or other legal authorities from using religious or foreign law as a part of a legal decision or contract. For example, Florida law would trump foreign law in marriage, divorce and custody cases. The House passed the bill 92-24, but the measure will stall in the Senate unless leaders steer it to the floor.
Muslim, Jewish and activist groups united against HB 1209 as it advanced through the hearing process in recent weeks. About 50 opponents drove to Tallahassee Tuesday only to be shut down when time-crunched lawmakers skipped witnesses and passed the bill in a 5-2 vote.
Critics have dubbed it the bill as “anti-Sharia,” referring to the Koran-based code of some Islamic countries. But Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, expressed concern the measure could void divorces mediated through Jewish tribunals. “I’ve received thousands of emails from constituents who oppose this,” said Schwartz, who fought the bill with Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek.
In floor debate Wednesday, Waldman repeatedly hammered Rep. Larry Metz, R-Eustis, the bill’s sponsor, to describe the bill’s intent. Metz eventually conceded that the impetus for the bill are the “cases throughout the country” in which courts have upheld Islamic code. He couldn’t pinpoint any Florida cases the bill would rectify, but Metz said it’s important to “jump in front of the problem” if there’s a viable solution.
See also Florida Independent, 1 March 2012
Update: See “Florida mulls outlawing Shariah, other foreign law”,Associated Press, 2 March 2012