What's at Stake
On December 18, 2018, The ACLU and ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires government contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts of Israel or territories controlled by Israel. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four Texans, argues that the law, HB 89, which went into effect last year, violates the First Amendment’s protection against government intrusion into political speech.
The ACLU’s lawsuit was brought on behalf of four people who were forced under the law to choose between signing the certification or forgoing professional opportunities and losing income: John Pluecker, a freelance writer who lost two service contracts from the University of Houston; George Hale, a reporter for KETR who was forced to sign the certification against his conscience in order to keep his job; Obinna Dennar, a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, who was forced to forfeit payment for judging at a debate tournament; and Zachary Abdelhadi, a student at Texas State University, who has had to forego opportunities to judge high school debate tournaments.
On April 25, 2019, a federal court in Texas blocked HB 89 and stated that the law “threatens ‘to suppress unpopular ideas’ and ‘manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion’” and that “no amount of narrowing its application will cure its constitutional infirmity.”