TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — After it failed last year, lawmakers on Thursday revived a bill that would ban Shariah, or Islamic, law and other foreign laws from Florida courts.
Republican Sen. Alan Hays, who sponsored the bill, said his measure was a "preemptive gesture." There are no reported cases in which a Florida court applied foreign law.
His bill is aimed at divorce and child custody cases and does not mention Shariah, or Islamic law, specifically. The Senate's Governmental Oversight and Accountability committee cleared the bill (SB 58) by a party-line vote of 6-3.
A bill last year passed the House but never was called for a vote before the Senate.
Hays' "motives and intentions are good, but it's a bad idea," said Sen. Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat. "It's just not needed ... It's not going to become an issue because we have a great legal system. And it could open us up to more litigation."
The Florida Bar's Family Law section opposed the measure, saying it would create confusion and uncertainty.
Several Muslims also spoke against the bill, including Moazzam Adnan Raja, a marketing director from Longwood. Raja soon choked up and cried.
"Show some compassion, show us love," he told senators. "We don't want to be called second-class citizens. We want to be accepted."
Saif Hamideh, a Florida State political science major whose family is from Jordan, worried about unintended consequences from such a law. He said he one day hoped to get married in Jordan, and was fearful his marriage might not be recognized in Florida.
Corey Saylor, legislative director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said six states have laws similar to Hays' bill: Arizona, South Dakota, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma. His group sued in Oklahoma and that law was suspended.
"In general, these laws have no real-world impact," Saylor said. Judges "can't replace the constitution with religious laws. But in passing these laws, elected officials are now joining in on the conversation of inspiring fear of Muslims."