To many Texans, the thought of Islamic Koranic law (also known as "Sharia Law") or any other law based upon a specific religion or the laws of another country taking over the state's courts seems far-fetched. To others, however, it seems to be a real concern.
Now the Texas Senate has passed a measure preventing the use of "international law" in the state's civil courts. It's currently awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott's signature.
No specific type of law is mentioned in the bill, which refers rather vaguely to "foreign courts." However, Muslim groups and others who oppose the measure say that the bill is Islamaphobic. They contend that it seeks to solve a problem that doesn't exist.
Austin State Sen. Kirk Watson, who opposes the bill, asked his colleague who is behind the measure exactly where she had seen an encroachment of "foreign law" or if she in fact had any examples at all of the use of such laws in Texas courts. That state senator, Donna Campbell from New Braunfels, said that the purpose of the bill is "just to provide some belt and suspenders to make sure that, with judicial discretion, we don't trump Texas law, American law, with a foreign law regarding family law."
In some parts of the country where religious communities have a strong presence, civil court judges have allowed religious laws to take precedence as long as everyone involved agrees. This includes parts of New York City, where Rabbinical courts are sometimes allowed to decide issues involving family law. In Utah and Arizona, special courts are sometimes used by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members. The same is true for Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
If Gov. Abbott signs the bill into law, it should have no impact on Texas residents who seek to deal with family law issues, including divorce, child custody and support, paternity and spousal support, in civil court. As has always been the case, they should seek the guidance of an experienced Texas family law attorney.
Source: News Radio 1200 WOAI, "'Anti Sharia Law' Measure Passed Texas Senate," May. 22, 2015