Maryland Governor Hogan Signs Anti-BDS Executive Order

 Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Photo:  Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office/Flickr

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Photo: Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office/Flickr

On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan circumvented the legislative process and ignored legal warnings by signing an unconstitutional executive order targeting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) supporters, despite the fact that human rights and free speech advocates in Maryland have successfully blocked similar measures in Maryland’s state legislature three years in a row.

Hogan’s order prohibits executive agencies in Maryland from entering into procurement contracts with companies unless they certify that they have not taken any “actions intended to limit commercial relations with a person or entity on the basis of Israeli national origin or residence or incorporation in Israel and its territories.” Notably, while Mr. Hogan himself describes it as an anti-BDS executive order, BDS targets companies and institutions to protest Israeli government policies, and not on the basis of Israeli national origin.

“Hogan is out of touch not only with what Marylanders have made clear by rejecting previous legislation attacking boycotts," said Rahul Saksena, Palestine Legal staff attorney. "He’s also out of touch with the serious constitutional issues that his order poses. It may be convenient and easy to undermine boycotts for Palestinian rights, but doing so undermines our right to dissent at a time when we need it most.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that political boycotts, like boycotts for Palestinian rights, are protected by the First Amendment. The government may not condition the receipt of benefits – like procurement contracts – on the requirement that you sign a loyalty oath pledging not to engage in First Amendment-protected political conduct.

Mr. Hogan’s Executive Order comes days after officials in Dickinson, Texas were widely criticized for conditioning Hurricane Harvey relief funds on the requirement that recipients sign a similar pledge against supporting boycotts for Palestinian rights.

Earlier this month, the A.C.L.U. filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Kansas’ anti-BDS law which, like Dickinson's hurricane relief form and Mr. Hogan’s executive order, requires prospective state contractors to certify that they do not support boycotts for Palestinian rights.

Mr. Hogan is the second governor to issue an anti-BDS executive order. In 2016, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order after New Yorkers successfully stalled anti-BDS measures in Albany. Twenty-two states now have anti-BDS laws in effect.

For more information on anti-BDS laws around the country, see RightToBoycott.org.

For an FAQ on what this legislation means, see Ten things to know about anti-BDS legislation.