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Texas Faces Another Federal Lawsuit Over Law Banning Contractors From Boycotting Israel

Todd Wiseman
Texas Tribune

Days after a federal lawsuit was filed in Pflugerville, Texas faces another suit over its 2017 law requiring contractors to pledge they won't boycott Israel – this time from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The suit, filed in Austin on behalf of four contractors who worked with state-affiliated organizations, alleges the requirement infringes on their First Amendment rights to free speech. Specifically, the contractors claim, their agreements with the University of Houston, the Klein Independent School District, the Lewisville Independent School District and Texas A&M-Commerce violate their right to protest Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

“This lawsuit is about fundamental First Amendment rights, which protect us all from having the government use its power to force us to choose one side or another in a public debate,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Whatever you may think about boycotts of Israel, the bottom line is that political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest."

The provision, the ACLU argues, is an "ideological litmus test" in the contracts to curtail expression.

A lawsuit filed against the Pflugerville Independent School District by a speech pathologist Sunday levels the same charge against House Bill 89, which Texas lawmakers passed in 2017.

Gov. Greg Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature said they intended for the law to discourage so-called BDS campaigns – campaigns to boycott, divest or sanction Israel for perceived human rights violations as a result of the occupation of Palestine.

Abbott on Monday defended the law, tweeting, "Texas stands with Israel. Period."

The law received bipartisan support, passing by overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate before getting an OK from Abbott and going into effect in September 2017.

The ACLU has successfully challenged similar laws in Kansas and Arizona.

Read the entire complaint below.

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Andrew Weber is a freelance reporter and associate editor for KUT News. A graduate of St. Edward's University with a degree in English, Andrew has previously interned with The Texas Tribune, The Austin American-Statesman and KOOP Radio.