TOPEKA, Kan. — A bill designed to prevent Kansas courts or government agencies from making decisions based on Islamic or other foreign legal codes cleared the state Legislature after a contentious debate about whether the measure upholds American values or appeals to prejudice against Muslims.
The Senate approved the bill Friday on a 33-3 vote. The House had approved it, 120-0, earlier in the week. The measure goes next to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who has not said whether he will sign or veto the measure.
The measure doesn't specifically mention Shariah law, which broadly refers to codes within the Islamic legal system. Instead, it says that courts, administrative agencies or state tribunals can't base rulings on any foreign law or legal system that would not grant the parties the same rights guaranteed by state and U.S. constitutions.
Though there are no known cases in which a Kansas judge has based a ruling on Islamic law, supporters of the bill cited a pending case in Sedgwick County in which a man seeking to divorce his wife has asked for property to be divided under a marriage contract in line with Shariah law.
The bill's supporters said it simply ensures that legal decisions will protect long-cherished liberties. Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said a vote for the legislation is a vote to protect women. "They stone women to death in countries that have Shariah law," Wagle said during the debate.
Some senators were critical of the measure. "This bill will put Kansas in a light that says we are intolerant of any other faith," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican who voted against the bill.