Legal Battles

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Anti-BDS Law

The wall between the West Bank and East Jerusalem — in Texas, silence is also golden when it comes to criticizing Israel.
The wall between the West Bank and East Jerusalem — in Texas, silence is also golden when it comes to criticizing Israel. DZarzycka/iStock
Texas' law banning government agencies from doing business with people or other businesses that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel is on hold Thursday night after a federal judge issued an injunction against it, ruling that it is likely unconstitutional. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement calls for a boycott of and divestment from Israel, along with sanctions to protest the country's continued occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinian Israelis.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled in favor of Bahia Amawi, a former speech pathologist with Pflugerville ISD, who recently sued the state over the law after she was fired from her job for supporting BDS.

“I was shocked because I didn't know what my position as a speech therapist helping kids improve their language in an elementary school had to do with economic harm to Israel and why the government was trying to be involved in restricting me in boycotting a certain entity,” Amawi told the Observer in December. “I felt like my rights were taken away and that I had no choice in what products I could purchase.”

Amawi claimed that the Texas law violated her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Pitman agreed.


"(T)he Court finds that H.B. 89’s plain text, the statements surrounding its passage, and Texas’s briefing in this case reveal the statute to be a viewpoint-based restriction intended not to combat discrimination on the basis of national origin, but to silence speech with which Texas disagrees," Pitman wrote in his decision.

“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’ attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine.” — Gadeir Abbas

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office had argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it was intended to regulate corporate behavior, rather than that of individuals.

“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’ attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” Gadeir Abbas, the senior litigation attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is backing Amawi's suit, said after the ruling. “More importantly, it’s a complete victory for all Texans, to engage in political speech without government censorship.”
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young