Updated April 12, 2017: Victory! Maryland's anti-boycott bill is dead. For a third year, activists in Maryland have successfully defeated anti-BDS legislation. Visit the Freedom 2 Boycott - MD coalition's blogpost for more information.
The following is our original blogpost from February 21, 2017 describing our efforts to defeat legislation in Maryland and Texas.
This week, Palestine Legal issued two legislative memos opposing anti-boycott bills pending in Texas and Maryland.
The Texas bills (HB 89 and SB 134) would require the state to create a blacklist of companies that support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns for Palestinian rights, and would prohibit Texas public funds from investing in blacklisted companies. It would also prohibit Texas from contracting with companies that engage in BDS.
The Texas memo, endorsed by Palestine Legal, the Center for Constitutional Rights, CAIR-Texas, National Lawyers Guild – Palestine Subcommittee, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, states:
It is undisputed that individuals, institutions, and companies may boycott in response to issues of public concern, as some have done historically to challenge racial segregation in the U.S., the apartheid regime in South Africa, abuse of farmworkers, and currently, fossil fuel companies. Boycott campaigns targeting Israel cannot be differentiated from these and other historical examples of boycotts simply because they may be unpopular with elected representatives today. Such a differentiation would constitute viewpoint discrimination prohibited by the First Amendment.
The Maryland bills (HB 949 and SB 739) are broader than the Texas bills. The BDS blacklist proposed in Maryland would include not just companies, but also non-profit organizations and individuals. The Maryland bill prohibits the state from investing in blacklisted entities. It also prohibits BDS supporters from contracting with the state.
The Maryland memo, endorsed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Palestine Legal, the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild of Maryland, and the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, states:
The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-District 11), was quoted in the altimore Jewish Times saying, “I just want to ensure that this ridiculous messenger movement against Israel never sees the light of day in our state.” Making sure that a political movement does not “see the light of day” is exactly the type of government suppression of political expression the First Amendment was designed to prevent.
These bills are part of a national wave of anti-boycott bills introduced, and in some cases enacted, in states across the country. As of this month, sixteen states have enacted anti-BDS laws. For more information about anti-BDS legislation, visit www.RightToBoycott.org.