Attorney General Ken Paxton today asked a U.S. District Court to deny motions for a preliminary injunction against a Texas law that prevents state-funded companies from boycotting Israel.
Last month, Bahia Amawi sued the Pflugerville Independent School District, whom she had contracted with, and Attorney General Paxton, alleging that Texas’ anti-discrimination law violates her right to free speech. Subsequently, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of four individuals – John Pluecker, Obinna Dennar, Zachary Abdelhadi and George Hale – against the attorney general, two universities and two school districts.
In his brief, Attorney General Paxton told the district court that Texas’ law applies to companies, not individuals. These individuals’ personal economic decisions to avoid products made in or affiliated with Israel, or their right to freely express views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, do not constitute “company” action under Chapter 2270 of the Texas Government Code.
“Texas law simply provides that if you choose to engage in nationality-based discrimination, then you may be choosing to forgo the privilege of receiving taxpayer money,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The state of Texas has the right to boycott boycotters in this instance. Doing so does not suppress protected speech or expression. The law supports a long-established principle of non-discrimination, and the motions for a preliminary injunction should be denied.”
Texas’s anti-discrimination law is not unique. Twenty-four other states have adopted similar legislation or executive orders not to contract with businesses that discriminatorily boycott Israel. None of the states’ anti-boycott statutes prohibits any individual from expressing anti-Israel views or engaging in anti-Israel economic boycotts. Under the statutes, a company may boycott Israel, but it can’t conduct a discriminatory boycott while receiving taxpayer funds for a government procurement contract.
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 89, which prohibits the state from contracting with and investing in companies that boycott Israel. Israel is Texas’s fourth biggest trading partner. In February 2018, Attorney General Paxton, joined by his counterpart from Nevada, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in U.S. District Court in support of Arizona’s anti-discrimination law.