A renewed attempt to pass a controversial “foreign law” bill proposed by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yahala, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, after more than an hour of sometimes emotional public testimony.
The bill, SB 58, bans courts or other legal authorities from using religious or foreign law as a part of a legal decision or contract relating to family law. Florida law would supercede foreign law regarding divorce, alimony, the division of marital assets, child support and child custody. The bill is ready to be heard on the House floor but it has more committee stops in the Senate. Last year, the bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Supporters say the proposal isn’t targeting religious groups, but the bill has been criticized as anti-Sharia, a Koran-based code followed in some Islamic countries, by Islamic groups as well as Jewish organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It should raise some eyebrows for you, the fact that there’s a rabbi speaking out against the bill who’s from Israel and a Arab Muslim, that’s me, also speaking out against the bill,” said Ahmed Bedier, president of the United Voices for America. “We may disagree what is happening in the Middle East, but we agree on this bill – that it discriminates and targets our communities.”
Hays said the bill “prevents a potential problem” from occurring in Florida courts and that it’s “not insulting to any religious group.”
“If your law violates the constitutional rights of a Floridian, it has no business being in a Florida court,” Hays said.
See also Atif Fareed, “Meaningless bill caters to Islamaphobes”, Orlando Sentinel, 21 February 2013
And David Barkey, “Leadership in Tallahassee must stand against intolerance”, Tampa Bay Tribune, 25 January 2013