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'Anti-sharia' legislation narrowly passes Senate committee

Legislation known as the "anti-sharia" law passed its second-to-last committee in the Senate on a slim 5-4 margin Monday.

Democrats could have defeated SB 58, but a freshman broke ranks and sided with Republicans to keep the bill alive.

If it becomes law, courts would be restricted from applying foreign laws to certain legal disputes, including divorces and child custody cases. Opponents have criticized the proposal as part of a national movement to limit the use of Sharia law -- a Koran-based policy used in some Islamic countries -- that is based more on fear than real problems in the U. S. court system. Jewish organizations and civil rights groups have also criticized SB 58.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, split with the other Republicans on the committeee and voted "no" on the bill. He joined three of the four Democrats on the committee.

There was an audible gasp in the room when Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, voted "yes." Thompson did not express support for the bill during debate, which followed roughly an hour of public testimony that was evenly split between supporters and opponents.

After the meeting, Thompson said she voted "yes" because the proposal is written in a way that it would only come into play if a foreign law was in conflict with U.S. law. "It's not a blanket prohibition against international law," she said.