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Florida Senate OKs bill banning use of foreign law in family court cases

29 April 2014 General 30 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Alan Hays

Alan Hays

By Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Foreign laws would be banned in Florida courts for certain family-related cases, under a bill the Senate sent to the House on Monday.

The Senate voted 24-14 to approve the proposal (SB 386) by Umatilla Republican Alan Hays, who has pushed various versions of the measure the past few years.

The bill would restrict courts and arbitration tribunals from applying foreign law and legal codes to matters of divorce, alimony, division of marital assets, child support and child custody.

The proposal is more defined than last year’s effort, which got House support but failed to advance in the Senate.

The House companion (HB 903) has reached the floor but has yet to be scheduled for debate.

Hays said the bill will do nothing to impede international trade, a prior concern of business groups, and won’t cast a negative message upon anyone from another country.

“For those people who want to come to America we welcome them, but when you come to America you’re going to be governed on American laws and when you come to Florida you’re going to be governed on Florida laws,” Hays said. “We dare not apologize for that, folks. This is a very good bill. It’s an all American bill.”

But the bill has been criticized as anti-Muslim and targeted at Sharia religious law followed in some Islamic countries.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said she opposed the bill because foreign laws have never been implemented in Florida courts or any other state.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, added that the bill appears neutral but the perception is that it targets certain religious groups in Florida.

“There are individuals who feel this bill targets them,” Thompson said. “It has caused unnecessary polarization.”

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sent letters to Republican lawmakers on April 7 asking them to reject the bill they claim is intended to “marginalize” American Muslim and other minority communities.

“If you remain silent while party organizations invite Islamophobic speakers and GOP legislators support bills driven by anti-Muslim bias, your party risks alienating one of the fastest growing groups of American voters,” CAIR-FL’s Chief Executive Director Hassan Shibly wrote. “Florida now has 150,000 registered Muslim voters. The GOP cannot afford to continue to alienate a minority growing in influence, especially in a key swing state such as Florida.”

The bill doesn’t mention Sharia or any other specific foreign law, which Senate staff believes strengthens the measure against legal challenges.

“As religion is not mentioned at all, the court will deem it facially neutral,” the staff review said. “A court will then apply the Lemon test (a legal test), and likely find both a secular government purpose and that the law does not facilitate excessive governmental entanglement with religion. Because of this, a court will likely uphold the law from a First Amendment challenge.”

If signed into law, Florida would join six other states – Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee – with laws restricting foreign laws in state courts.

Original post: Florida Senate OKs bill banning use of foreign law in family court cases





30 Comments »

  1. No foreign law should have any sway in the US in regards to family issues.

  2. No foreign law should have any sway in the US in regards to family issues.

  3. No foreign law should have any sway in the US in regards to family issues.

  4. No foreign law should have any sway in the US in regards to family issues.

  5. No foreign law should have any sway in the US in regards to family issues.

  6. The Republicans will use the hysteria to get votes from fools. The only laws operating in the US are US laws. They can’t violate the Constitution. They cannot violate state or federal law. It is utter nonsense. No laws can be based on any religion.

  7. The Republicans will use the hysteria to get votes from fools. The only laws operating in the US are US laws. They can’t violate the Constitution. They cannot violate state or federal law. It is utter nonsense. No laws can be based on any religion.

  8. …? Whatever US Law says. The laws of one country hold no sway in another country. American law is not beholden to the laws of a foreign nation The historic origin of any U.S. law in indisputably irrelevant. You are grasping.

  9. Does that mean they cannot use the Ten Commandments, or any other part of the Christian Bible? If I recall correctly those did not originate in the United States.

  10. Does that mean they cannot use the Ten Commandments, or any other part of the Christian Bible? If I recall correctly those did not originate in the United States.

  11. As long as you aren’t trying to impose your religious rules on *any* other individual then feel free to exercise your religion as you see fit.

  12. 10 commandments? Like “no murdering”? You’re grasping.
    “as the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” – US Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams, unanimously ratified by congress.

  13. So, if they ban the use of foreign law, does this mean they will not recognize marriages or divorces that take place in foreign countries?

  14. They should not use any part of the Bible. Except common sense things like “no murdering people”, but that predates Christianity. “In God We Trust” should be removed from US currency & “under God” should be removed from the pledge of allegiance.

  15. I think government should be 100% out of all matters pertaining to marriage, as marriage is of religious origin.

  16. Why should they recognize foreign law? No country recognizes foreign law.

  17. What we have now is foreign law in America.

  18. What we have now is foreign law in America.

  19. Jaleel Shakir :
    By that logic every nation on earth has “foreign law”. You’re grasping.

  20. Did USA uses it’s “own law” ? or they also use english law :v

  21. This bill hurts families who use religious contracts. For example, in Islam there exists Shariah finance. In Islam loans have certain conditions that banks cannot meet so Muslims must go to other Muslims to get a loan that is compliant with their religion. Bills like this only stop private contracts.

  22. Good decision by Florida senate.

  23. I don’t see any evidence of phobia here. I’ve discussed this issue with a friend who is a family court judge and also with several attorneys. Their informed opinions are that Sharia courts would never be deemed a *final* legal authority in any decision in this country, nor should they be.

    Other countries have cautiously allowed religious tribunals to adjudicate family law issues, but *only* if both parties are also represented in these tribunals by separate legal counsel who can advise the parties of their legal rights under the secularly based legal system of the country in question.
    Some countries permit members of the religious community to attend proceedings and act as a friend of the court in order to advise a family court judge about any pertinent religious issues that might not otherwise be addressed.

    There are just too many legitimate reasons and too many examples of why it’s not a good idea to have a variety of religious and secular adjudicating bodies operating independently or as a parallel system.
    In the end, the law of the land, whatever the law or land that might be, must be considered the final authority in matters of family law as it is in all other legal matters.
    Not religious phobia, but a matter of equal protection under the law.
    From the U.K.
    http://www.theguardian.com/law/2010/jul/05/sharia-law-religious-courts

  24. The US has its “own law” now. Whether or not any part of it was based on the laws of a different country is completely irrelevant. Please stop drifting off on irrelevant conjecture. Keep it in reality.

  25. I would not be so pompous as to move to another country and demand they adjust their rules to suit my “needs”. I would also not expect the country I’m living in to adjust to suit a belief system that I chose to adopt. That’s an incredibly arrogant thing to do. The appropriate thing to do would be to choose a country that already suits my needs. That is how it is done.

  26. Ed Smith – re. “I would not be so pompous as to move to another country and demand they adjust their rules to suit my “needs”. I would also not expect the country I’m living in to adjust to suit a belief system that I chose to adopt. That’s an incredibly arrogant thing to do.” Guess what, it happens all the time, and American ex-pats are frequently guilty of just such an attitude – and of liberally either “greasing palms ” or using threats to circumvent the laws of the country they are in.

  27. Linda Zachri, What you say is true. Americans living abroad are frequently frustrated by customs and cultural differences that inconvenience them in some way. Sometimes Americans have been guilty of trying to circumvent these things by “greasing palms”, as you say, but the only threat I’ve ever heard is the impotent one to report someone to the American Embassy, of all things pointless and ridiculous!

    They’re not alone, though. I lived in the UK, for years, and recall estate agents (real estate) explaining the extremely high cost of rental property being due to very demanding foreigners who required the same conveniences and accommodations that they enjoyed at home.

    American and Canadians demanded that flats be fitted with showers instead of tubs (an expensive remodel, reluctantly done), but the owners appreciated that Canadians and Americans usually seemed willing to make occasional DIY repairs. Scandinavian expats weren’t much interested in properties without up to date appliances and weren’t impressed by (or willing to pay for) Victorian era architecture and charm.

    Claims were made that the Japanese demanded that a flat be only steps away from public transportation and be freshly painted and re-carpeted before they would consider viewing, let alone renting. They weren’t willing change their own lightbulbs but they were willing to pay handsomely for this service. Landlords were among the many who were all too eager to have their palms “greased” by expats of every nationality.

    I won’t repeat unflattering comments about ex-pat renters from Arabic countries and the special accommodations that they required, but my point, and I think it was yours as well, is that nobody really loves an ex-pat who doesn’t appear to be interested in experiencing life lived in a different culture and in broadening their horizons. When we’re in Rome it’s in our best interest to do as Roman’s do, and when it comes to legal issues, to be guided and govern ourselves according to the laws of the land.

  28. Ann Peirce, I have seen the damage that can be done to southeast Asian cities with already strained resources when foreigners (and this includes Americans and Canadians) demand not just the same types of facilities they have at home, but something far beyond what they would normally have in their home countries. Threats and bribery can be used to bypass city by laws and other regulations to create what I used to refer to as the golden ghettos. For example, in Jakarta, Indonesia, there was a law decreeing that any wall around a house could not be too high to allow the night watchman to see over the top. There was a very good reason for this. Neighborhood security was considered everybody’s business and night watchmen were (are) volunteers from the district. The volunteer night watchmen have actually been part of a pretty effective security system that lasted for generations. However, this wasn’t good enough for many foreigners. They insisted on really high, fortress-type walls – preferably with glass on the top – and to hell with the city by-laws. Whole districts of mini fortress were created with exactly the opposite result the foreigners had intended. These areas became some of the most dangerous parts of the city. The neighborhood watch could no longer function effectively and criminal gangs saw the walls as a kind of convenience. A chief of police, who was interviewed in a panel discussion on television reported how gang members described these ex-pat “fortresses” as easy targets. The walls provided a kind of protection for thugs to allow them do whatever they wanted without any neighbor becoming the wiser. To make their houses “safer” foreigners would have to hire guards – who could be bribed, coerced or killed outright – or guard dogs, that could be drugged, poisoned or otherwise killed. I remember a pop singer in the eighties who sang a song addressing foreigners in the city. One line in the song wistfully said, “Don’t build a high wall around your house,” (try to get to know us.)
    This is just one instance of the way an ex-pat community can unwittingly sabotage the life of a city or town – and contribute to a kind of vortex that sucks them into a ridiculously expensive life style (often supported by other foreigners who are making a fortune off it.) Don’t even get me started on areas like prostitution, smuggling and servants (of course, scores of foreigners who lived normal middle class lifestyles at home, suddenly MUST have a cook, a laundress, at least one housemaid, a houseboy, a gardener, a chauffeur, a nanny and a night guard – many of whom are recruited from outside the city by a recruiting agency that takes regular cuts in their salaries. Maybe we could also get into some “normal business practices” as well – but that’s for another thread.)

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