As the Georgia legislature sent pro-Israel legislation to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk last week, a federal judge in Texas granted an injunction that blocks Texas from enforcing a similar anti-boycott law.
Rasmy Hassouna refused to sign an anti-BDS loyalty oath to Israel as part of a contract with the City of Houston, an entity he had contracted with for 17+ years. Hassouna sued in November 2021, citing First Amendment infringements by the contract requirement that he promise not to boycott Israel.
In a ruling issued Friday, United States District Judge Andrew S. Hanen wrote:
“The speech contemplated by [Rasmy’s company] may make some individuals—especially those who identify with Israel—uncomfortable, anxious, or even angry. Nevertheless, speech—even speech that upsets other segments of the population—is protected by the First Amendment unless it escalates into violence and misconduct.”
“The Court does find that Hassouna authentically holds a pro-Palestinian point of view that is protected by the First Amendment.” You can read the full ruling here.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called the ruling ‘a victory’ as it was party to the lawsuit on behalf of the engineering firm owned by Rasmy Hassouna.
“State lawmakers should note this decision,” said CAIR National Litigation and Civil Rights Director Lena Masri. “There’s no place for banning boycotts under the First Amendment.”
“This is a major victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s repeated attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “These regressive attempts to create a Palestine-exception to the First Amendment betray the central role boycotts have played in our history.”
CAIR also called the proposed bill in Georgia to implement a similar anti-BDS law “a doomed effort” after a court ruled the original version of the law was unconstitutional. The original version of the Georgia bill applied the ban to companies and individuals. The updated bill limits the rule to businesses with more than five employees, and the contract must be valued at more than $100,000.
One of the bill’s backers, Rep. John Carson, said the Georgia bill “preserves free speech rights for individuals and sole proprietorships…But it also says we as a state are not going to contract – we’re updating our statute to say we are not going to contract with groups that embrace boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel.”
Follow more of what the Georgia legislature is doing.