Maryland's ban on contracting with businesses that boycott Israel tramples on the First Amendment rights of a software engineer who advocates for Palestinians, a Muslim civil rights group claims in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The order requires contractors to certify in writing that they don't boycott Israel. The group's suit claims the order has an unconstitutional chilling effect on First Amendment-protected political advocacy supporting the Palestinians.
CAIR says 25 other states have enacted measures similar to Maryland's, through legislation or executive orders. CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas said other federal lawsuits have challenged measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.
Ali's lawsuit says the order bars him from bidding for government software program contracts because he supports boycotts of businesses and organizations that "contribute to the oppression of Palestinians."
"Speech and advocacy related to the Israel-Palestine conflict is core political speech on a matter of public concern entitled to the highest levels of constitutional protection," the suit says.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the attorney general hadn't seen the suit and doesn't comment on pending litigation. A spokeswoman for Hogan's office said, "We are confident that our executive order is completely consistent with the First Amendment and will be upheld in court."
Ali, a resident of Gaithersburg, served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 2007 to 2011 and represented Montgomery County as a Democrat. He accused Hogan, a Republican, of making an "end around" the Legislature by signing the executive order after lawmakers repeatedly rejected several "anti-BDS" bills targeting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The executive order says a boycott based on religion, national origin or ethnicity is discriminatory. A business boycott of Israel and its territories "is not a commercial decision made for business or economic reasons," it says.
"Contracting with business entities that discriminate make the State a passive participant in private-sector commercial discrimination," the order says.
In December, the Arkansas Times weekly newspaper sued to block a similar measure. That state law, which took effect in August 2017, requires contractors to reduce their fees by 20 percent if they don't sign a pledge not to boycott Israel.
"It is neither speech, nor is it conduct that is inherently expressive, nor associational activity that is afforded constitutional protection," wrote attorneys representing Rutledge's office.
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