Federal judge blocks enforcement of Texas’s anti-BDS law
A federal judge on Friday blocked a Texas law barring government entities from doing business with contractors that participated in boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activity from being enforced against a Palestinian-American contractor, saying that the law infringed on the contractor’s First Amendment rights.
Houston-based A&R Engineering and Testing Inc., which is owned by Palestinian-American Rasmy Hassouna, in October filed a lawsuit arguing that the anti-boycott law was unconstitutional, according to Axios.
“The speech contemplated by [Rasmy’s company] may make some individuals — especially those who identify with Israel — uncomfortable, anxious, or even angry,” U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen wrote in his ruling.
“Nevertheless, speech — even speech that upsets other segments of the population — is protected by the First Amendment unless it escalates into violence and misconduct,” he continued.
Hassouna refused to renew his contract with the city of Houston over the inclusion of terms forbidding participation in any BDS activity, according to Al Jazeera. He had previously worked with the city for 17 years.
“Texas’s ban on contracting with any boycotter of Israel constitutes viewpoint discrimination that chills constitutionally protected political advocacy in support of Palestine,” A&R Engineering attorneys wrote in the initial complaint, per Axios.
Gadeir Abbas, a senior litigation attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy organization that worked with Hassouna to file the lawsuit, said in a statement that the ruling was “a major victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s repeated attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine.”
This news comes after another federal judge said in a May ruling that Georgia’s anti-BDS law violated the First Amendment.