Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers are once again weighing a bill to ban the "application of foreign law" in family law cases in state courts.
In the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee Thursday, a bill regarding metering agreements for renters was gutted and amended to become the Sharia law ban that passed the House earlier this session.
The new House Bill 522 does not specifically mention Islamic Law or "Sharia," but it was the topic of a supporting handout provided to the panel by House sponsor Rep. Chris Whitmire, R-Transylvania.
Whitmire said both the House and the Senate have already passed the language in the bill, which says courts, arbitrators, mediators and other state officials shall not recognize "foreign law" in family law cases if it would "result in the violation of a fundamental constitutional right of a natural person."
"There are times when foreign laws in our courts have very demonstrably violated civil rights in our courts," Whitmire told the committee. "We've had multiple cases around the United States – 27 that I've got in my bag here."
Whitmire said his bill "undergirds the basis of our free market economy and our American legal tradition" by banning judges from recognizing such laws.
"There's an ever-growing frequency of foreign laws under the concept of comity entering our courts," he said. "The judiciary is being forced to legislate from the bench."
Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, said she couldn't see the need for the bill.
"Doesn't the Constitution already guarantee this?" Wade asked. "I don't see why we have to make another law. The Constitution is already the law."
"When we're dealing with treaties with foreign countries, those are many times by the courts given much leeway," Whitmire replied.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, mentioned a 2012 case, Mussa v. Palmer-Mussa, in which the North Carolina Supreme Court was asked to address the validity of an Islamic marriage and divorce.
"I just think anytime we can uphold the Constitution of the United States," Goolsby said, "that's what we need to focus on."
The bill passed 4-1, with Wade voting against it. It now goes to the Senate floor, where it could be up for a vote Thursday afternoon.
Whitmire's original bill, House Bill 695, had abortion restrictions added to it by the Senate Rules Committee two weeks ago, and it is now stalled in the House after Gov. Pat McCrory expressed concerns about it.
WRAL News has not been able to find any cases in which Sharia law has been applied in North Carolina.