A controversial bill aimed at restricting the “application of foreign law” (specifically Sharia law) in courts in Florida died on the floor of the state Senate late last Friday night, as the 2012 Legislative session came to a close.
Though the bill was on the Senate calendar and set for a final vote, it was not taken up before the Legislature ended its session. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Eustis, and was a piece of model legislation written by anti-Islam leader David Yerushalmi.
The bill was one of the more controversial measures introduced in the Legislature this year. If passed, the bill would have outlawed the use of “foreign law” in family court cases. Proponents of the bill have yet to prove that a problem concerning the use of foreign law in courts actually exists.
Critics argued that the bill was rooted in anti-Islam extremism. 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.” Sharia law, the moral code and religious law of the Muslim faith, has been the subject of right-wing hysteria in Florida for years.
Groups including the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Anti-Defamation League have said the bill would restrict religious freedoms. CAIR has routinely denounced the bill, claiming it is an attempt by the Legislature to “demonize Islam and marginalize Muslims.”
Hassan Shibly, the executive director of CAIR-Tampa, said in a statement following the end of session that the bill’s failure “sends a strong message that we will not tolerate legislation intended to demonize, attack, and marginalize religious minorities in America.”
“Our victory tonight is a great example of how the interfaith and civil rights community united can make a positive difference for all Americans,” Shibly said.
Many of the bill’s critics called it unnecessary. During one of the bill’s committee stops, a representative of the Family Law section of the Florida Bar argued that it was a “solution for a problem that does not exist.”