Florida Senate passes bill banning Shariah law in Family Law

The Florida legislature plan to pass a controversial law banning courts from using Shariah law in family legal proceedings, after the state Senate committee signed off on the measure.

SB-58 would effectively ban courts or other legal entities from using religious or foreign law in court proceedings involving family law, including divorce, child custody and alimony. The House approved a similar bill in 2012 but it died on the Senate floor.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee approved the bill on a 5-4 margin, with one Republican voting against it and one Democrat approving the measure. This surprised opponents of the bill who expected the bill to fail.

Opponents of the bill include several civil rights groups like the Florida Bar, the Anti-Defamation League, the ACLU of Florida and the National Council of Jewish Women. Opponents believe that the bill would have a negative effect on Jewish divorces and could strain Florida’s relationship with Israel. Under Shariah law only a man can grant a divorce to a woman.

This stipulation violates both Floridian and federal constitutional protections. The new bill would ban courts from recognizing divorce settlements granted under Israeli or Jewish law.

Opponents also argue that the bill would have devastating consequences for relationships between Israeli nationals, and dual citizens already living in Florida.

The bill has already garnered some intense media scrutiny after the bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Larry Metz, compared Shariah law to a “dreadful disease” requiring a cure to protect Americans.

A similar law from Oklahoma was struck down by a federal court but unlike the Oklahoma bill, the Florida law does not specifically mention Shariah law rather it simply bans all religious law during court proceedings. A similar law went into effect in Kansas last year.

The law would not apply to corporations or ecclesiastical matters.

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