If passed, new Florida legislation could keep the courts from deferring to foreign laws such as Sharia law when they make legal decisions. This could impact the handling of several aspects of family law especially divorce, remarriage, child custody and inheritance. SB 58, as the bill is known, effectively seeks to elevate Florida law above foreign law.
In 2012, the bill was approved by the House but not by the Senate. This time, the legislation is still making its way through the Senate and then must go to the House. A state senator and state representative co-sponsored the bill and insisted that it is not directed against Islam but rather that its purpose is to concentrate on the constitutional rights of Florida residents.
Opponents say the bills address problems that don’t exist. Oklahoma voted a similar amendment into legislation that was later overturned, and South Dakota recently approved such a law.
The bill does not specifically discuss Sharia law, which is drawn from the sacred text of Islam and references a variety of codes and precepts, by name. One highly publicized incident in which the laws were invoked involved a case in which a New Jersey court used Sharia law against an abused woman to deny her a restraining order.
Cultural differences in handling family law matters can give rise to challenges for the American judicial system. A family law attorney who takes into account religious and cultural considerations for his or her clients might be able to provide helpful counsel inside and outside of court.
Source: Salon, “Florida advances Sharia ban,” Jillian Rayfield, March 8, 2013
Source: International Business Times, “Florida Sharia Law Bill Advances, Joining South Dakota,” Jeremy B. White, March 2, 2013