On October 27, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed an unconstitutional executive order targeting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) supporters, making his state the 23rd with an anti-BDS law or executive order on the books. Walker’s action came days after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed a similar executive order, signaling a trend to circumvent the legislative process to take action against BDS.
Gov. Walker’s Executive Order prohibits Wisconsin agencies from entering into contracts with businesses engaged in boycotts for Palestinian rights.
“Walker’s extreme right-wing record of undermining democracy by advocating for voter suppression laws and limiting collective bargaining rights in his state now includes infringing on First Amendment protected political boycotts for Palestinian rights,” said Rahul Saksena, Palestine Legal staff attorney. “Our elected officials should be in the business of promoting – not undermining – human rights, constitutional rights, and the democratic process.”
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 contracts – on the requirement that you pledge not to engage in First Amendment-protected political conduct.
Earlier this month, the A.C.L.U. filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Kansas’ anti-BDS law which, like Mr. Walker’s executive order, prohibits state contracts to companies that support boycotts for Palestinian rights.
Mr. Walker is the third governor to issue an anti-BDS executive order. In addition to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order in 2016 after New Yorkers successfully stalled anti-BDS measures in Albany. Twenty-three 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.