A Senate panel ended emotionally today after a group of people attending “Muslim Day” at the Capitol were shut out of speaking against a bill aimed at outlawing “foreign law” in family court cases. The measure, and past incarnations of it, have been touted by right-wing activists as an attempt to “stop the spread of Sharia in Florida.”
The bill, which is sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, would regulate the “application of foreign law in certain cases.” It has been called “unnecessary” by critics.
A representative of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar argued that the bill is a “solution for a problem that does not exist” during a House committee’s consideration of the bill. She said there are already laws in place that safeguard against the intervention of laws that do not apply.
Groups including the Council on Islamic-American Relations and the Anti-Defamation League have said the bill would restrict religious freedom. Some have denounced the bill, a piece of model legislation written by anti-Islam leader David Yerushalmi, for its ties to extremism.
The bill was brought up during the last few minutes of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting today. A motion to vote on the bill was requested as the committee chair, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, listed the many Muslim speakers hoping to testify against it.
Many hoping to testify against the bill told Bogdanoff that the motion was a “pre-planned” effort to “shut down” those who were against the bill.
Bogdanoff told the bill’s detractors that she would be willing to hear them out once the committee had already voted the bill forward. She also told the upset speakers that, if they wanted another committee hearing for the bill, they could take their concerns to Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
State Sens. Arthenia Joyner and Ronda Storms listened to those expressing their dissatisfaction with the meeting once the committee had adjourned. Joyner said that this was the sort of thing that happens at the end of the session when legislators are rushing to get their bills passed.
Interestingly, the vote coincided with the fourth annual “Muslim Capitol Day” to be held in Tallahassee. “Muslim Day” was billed as an opportunity for Muslim constituents in the state to be introduced “to the Florida political process, where [they] will have the unique opportunity of speaking directly with [they’re] elected legislators.”