HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a bill that would have banned Sharia and other foreign laws from being used in Montana courts, saying Thursday that the measure would "upend our legal system and debase what we stand for as Montanans and Americans."
Montana was one of the 13 states considering legislation seeking to prevent the use of foreign law in state courts. While the bill's focus was not on Sharia law, some supporters specifically spoke out against the religious law used in some parts of the Islamic world.
Some Republicans sided with Democrats in opposing the measure but could not block it from going to the governor.
"There is absolutely no need for this bill," Bullock wrote in his veto message, adding that the proposal could add to the "nationwide surge in hate crimes."
The bill was one of five on which the governor took action Thursday, and the only to get a veto. Including that measure, the governor has vetoed five bills outright - with an additional 50 waiting on his desk for action.
Bullock said he was disturbed that the ban, if he had signed it, could have been seen as an "endorsement for anti-Muslim sentiments and activity."
"I don't see how affirming our Constitution does that. I disagree with him," said Sen. Keith Regier, a Kalispell Republican.
He and other backers argued that the measure aimed merely to declare support for U.S. and Montana law, which some Republican lawmakers say is under assault. They rejected contentions that the bill was anti-Islamic or xenophobic.
The governor saw it differently.
"It cannot be seriously denied that the bill is drawn from 'Sharia law bans' that have been tried in other states," Bullock wrote. "The intent of these bills is to target a particular religion and group of people for disfavored treatment."