Tag Archives: Family Law

Goldfeder, “Legalizing Plural Marriage”

In November, Brandeis University Press will release “Legalizing Plural Marriage: The Next Frontier in Family Law” by Mark Goldfeder (Emory University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:

Polygamous marriages are currently recognized in nearly fifty countries worldwide. Although polygamy is technically illegal in the United States, it is practiced by members of some religious communities and a growing number of other “poly” groups. In the radically changing and increasingly multicultural world in which we live, the time has come to define polygamous marriage and address its legal feasibilities.

Although Mark Goldfeder does not argue the right or wrong of plural marriage, he maintains that polygamy is the next step—after same-sex marriage—in the development of U.S. family law. Providing a road map to show how such legalization could be handled, he explores the legislative and administrative arguments which demonstrate that plural marriage is not as farfetched—or as far off—as we might think. Goldfeder argues not only that polygamy is in keeping with the legislative values and freedoms of the United States, but also that it would not be difficult to manage or administrate within our current legal system. His legal analysis is enriched throughout with examples of plural marriage in diverse cultural and historical contexts.

Tackling the issue of polygamy in the United States from a legal perspective, this book will engage anyone interested in constitutional law, family law, or criminal law, along with sociologists and those who study gender and culture in modern times.

Boe, “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a”

Last month, I.B.Tauris released “Family Law in Contemporary Iran: Women’s Rights Activism and Shari’a” by Marianne Boe (University of Bergen). The publisher’s description follows:

Passed into law over a decade before the Revolution, the Family Protection Law quickly drew the ire of the conservative clergy and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. In fact, it was one of the first laws to be rescinded following the revolution. The law was hardly a surprising target, however, since women’s status in Iran was then – and continues now to be – a central concern of Iranian political leaders, media commentators, and international observers alike. Taking up the issue of women’s status in a modern context, Marianne Boe offers a nuanced view of how women’s rights activists assert their rights within an Islamic context by weaving together religious and historical texts and narratives. Through her substantial fieldwork and novel analysis, Boe undermines both the traditional view of ‘Islamic Feminism’ as monolithic and clears a path to a new understanding of the role of women’s rights activists in shaping and synthesizing debates on the shari’a, women’s rights and family law. As such, this book is essential for anyone studying family law and the role of women in contemporary Iran.

More on That Jewish Divorce Case in New Jersey

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the FBI’s arrest of two rabbis who allegedly orchestrated the kidnapping and torture of dozens of men in New Jersey. The rabbis allegedly did this in order to force the men to consent to their wives’ requests for divorce under Jewish law. Under Jewish law, a woman cannot unilaterally divorce her husband; the husband must give permission, or a get. If he refusesthe wife becomes a chained woman, or agunah, who cannot remarry.

The women in these cases were apparently desperate for Jewish divorces and took extreme measures to obtain them. They allegedly paid the rabbis tens of thousands of dollars to convene Jewish law tribunals and issue decrees allowing violence against the recalcitrant husbands. The rabbis then allegedly arranged for thugs to torture the husbands until the husbands granted the gets. This conduct would obviously be criminal under US law and the rabbis will not be able to escape punishment by arguing that their religion authorized what they did.

I expressed doubt in my post that ordering violence against a recalcitrant husband would be consistent with Jewish law. It turns out that I may have spoken too soon. My friend Michael Helfand  at Pepperdine University, an expert in Jewish law and occasional guest here at CLR Forum, explains in the The Forward that “the use of violent sanction in these circumstances has been a feature of Jewish family law for millennia.” Under traditional Jewish law, he writes, if a husband refused to comply with a tribunal’s judgment and give his wife a get,

the rabbinical court could authorize the use of violent force against the husband. While divorces [could not] be executed under duress, it was simply unimaginable that a husband would so cruelly leave his wife trapped in a nonfunctional marriage. Thus, force simply served as a vehicle to free the husband’s inner desire to do the right thing and grant his wife a divorce.

Michael doesn’t advocate this practice, I hasten to add, and he notes that the strong implication of bribery would likely invalidate the religious decrees in the New Jersey cases. In fact, Michael advocates a very American fix for the problem of agunot–a prenuptial agreement. (Michael wrote about the topic here at CLR Forum back in March). The Beth Din of America, a major Jewish law tribunal in the US, has adopted a model prenup “that requires a husband to provide his wife with a daily support payment, typically $150, for each day the two no longer live together and the husband still refuses to grant his wife a religious divorce.”

The prenup is not a panacea. A wealthy husband could make the payments and refuse to give a get, and a wife without such a prenup wouldn’t benefit at all. But the prenup might help some agunot, and wouldn’t require kidnapping one’s husband and torturing him. It’s like they used to tell us in law school: In America, when the going gets tough, the tough contract out. 

Tarabey, “Family Law in Lebanon”

9781780765624Next month, Macmillan will publish Family Law in Lebanon: Marriage and Divorce Among the Druze by Lubna Tarabey (American University of Beirut). The publisher’s description follows.

Much of the life and ritual of the Druze in Lebanon appears mysterious to outsiders, as this esoteric sect remains closed to non-members. Lubna Tarabey, herself a member of this secretive community, is ideally-placed to offer insight into the family life, tradition and religious practices of the Druze. She reaches back to the 1970s, and the start of a civil war that shattered Lebanon along confessional lines, to explore how the substantial social and political changes that have shaken the country have affected marriage and divorce practices. Through extensive research, she approaches a complex web of change and continuity, of traditional values competing with enhanced individualism and personal freedoms. In Lebanon, family law falls under the authority of its religious courts, and Tarabey traces the ways in which social and legal developments have impacted family law and the internal cohesion of the Druze.

Giunchi, “Adjudicating Family Law in Muslim Courts”

9780415811859Next month, Routledge will publish Adjudicating Family Law in Muslim Courts by Elisa Giunchi (University of Milan). The publisher’s description follows.

While there are many books on Islamic family law, the literature on its enforcement is scarce. This book focuses on how Islamic family law is interpreted and applied by judges in a range of Muslim countries – Sunni and Shi’a, as well as Arab and non-Arab. It thereby aids the understanding of shari’a law in practice in a number of different cultural and political settings. It shows how the existence of differing views of what shari’a is, as well as the presence of a vast body of legal material which judges can refer to, make it possible for courts to interpret Islamic law in creative and innovative ways.

Larson, et al. (eds.), “Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law”

Next month, I.B. Tauris Publishers will publish Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in the Islamic Legal Process edited by Lena Larsen, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Christian Moe and Kari Vogt.  The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines how male authority is sustained through law and court practice, the consequences for women and the family, and the demands made by Muslim women’s groups. Examining the construction of male guardianship (qiwama, wilaya) in the Islamic tradition, it also seeks to create an argument for women’s full equality before the law. Bringing together renowned Muslim scholars and experts, anthropologists who have carried out fieldwork in family courts, and human rights and women’s rights activists from different parts of the Muslim world, from Morocco to Egypt and Iran, this book develops a framework for rethinking Islamic Law and its traditions in ways that reflect contemporary realities and understandings of justice and gender rights.

Quraishi-Landes on What American Judges Do with Islamic Family Law in Their Courtrooms

Asifa Quraishi-Landes (U. of Wisconsin Law School) has posted Rumors of the Sharia Threat Are Greatly Exaggerated: What American Judges Really Do with Islamic Family Law in Their Courtrooms. The abstract follows.

American rule of law has always considered issues of accommodations of religious minorities seeking to follow rules that differ from American secular legal norms. In other words, Sharia is by no means the first religious law to be presented in American courts. Two centuries of case law involving religious-based requests from American Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Native Americans, and others has resulted in several established policies and practices that American judges use to adjudicate requests for consideration of religious law. In short, requests for consideration of religious law are balanced with constitutional and legislative principles, using judicial tools such as comity, public policy, and unconscionability. Because many Americans are unaware of this established practice, the anti-Sharia campaign has been able to create a concern that judicial consideration of Sharia-based claims from Muslim American litigants is compromising American law and values. The case law, however, shows a different picture. Judicial treatment of Sharia requests is not threatening the American rule of law, it is an illustration of it. As with requests from other American religious groups, sometimes Sharia requests win, and sometimes they don’t. Reasonable minds differ over whether the courts get it right each time. But in every case, the job of the judge is a careful balancing of rights against each other, not an automatic trumping of religious practice by secular law or vice versa.

The campaign to ban Sharia in the United States appears to be directed at two different alleged threats: (1) that Sharia will take over American law, and (2) that judicial accommodation of Muslim religious practices is eroding our secular rule of law. The first is a non-issue: there is no real chance that Sharia will replace American law or our Constitution. But the second is worth talking about. It asks a question crucial to the nature of our secular constitutional democracy: Can we legally accommodate a diversity of religious legal practices among our citizens and, if so, with what limits? I will address one aspect of this question by summarizing in Part II how Islamic family law is currently accommodated in American courtrooms today and discussing in Part III why this does not threaten women’s rights or our American rule of law. In Part IV, I consider the global and domestic implications of Muslim American tribunals serving the dispute resolution needs of American Muslims. Part V concludes.

Ahmed & Norton on Religious Tribunals in the United Kingdom

Farrah Ahmed (University of Oxford, Melbourne Law School) and Jane Calderwood Norton (University of Birmingham School of Law) have posted Religious Tribunals, Religious Freedom, and Concern for Vulnerable Women.  The abstract follows.

For the most part current UK law does not interfere with the operation of religious tribunals. The role of religious tribunals in family matters in the United Kingdom is, however, fiercely debated. While many considerations are at play in these debates, two are often set up against each other. Religious freedom is often given, on the one hand, as a reason not to interfere with religious tribunals. On the other hand, however, concern for the vulnerable – especially women in religious groups – is thought to weigh in favour of greater interference. This article evaluates the current legal response to religious tribunals in the UK in the context of family matters against these two key values. It also clarifies and expands on how religious tribunals can both harm and enhance these values. It finds that contrary to the way the debate is often presented, religious tribunals can harm religious freedom while, at the same time, they can also enhance the welfare of vulnerable persons.

CLR Fellow Andrew Hamilton Wins Writing Prize

We are proud to announce that one of our talented student fellows, Andrew Hamilton, has won third place in the national “Religious Freedom Student Writing Competition,” sponsored by the Washington D.C. Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society and the International Center for Law and Religion Studies.  Andy’s paper, The New York Marriage Equality Act and the Strength of its Religious Exceptions (supervised by Mark), explores whether the religious exceptions under the New York same-sex marriage law allow Catholic Charities to refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples.

The paper will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies.  Andrew will be traveling down to Washington D.C. this Thursday to attend the  2012 International Religious Liberty Award Dinner, whose guest of honor is Douglas Laycock.

Warm congratulations to Andy!

Call for Papers: Family, Marriage and Love in Eastern Orthodoxy

The Sophia Institute will host a conference, “Family, Marriage and Love in Eastern Orthodoxy,” at Union Theological Seminary in New York on December 7. The call for papers invites legal perspectives on the subject. Details are here.