In 2017, Texas became one of more than two dozen states to pass a law or have taken some sort of executive action explicitly targeting the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. The Texas statute barred the state from doing business with companies involved in the movement. The free speech concerns here are rather obvious, and on Thursday night, a federal judge ruled against the law.
U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas Robert Pitman, an appointee of Barack Obama, delivered an injunction to the Texas law on Thursday night. The lead plaintiff, Bahia Amawi, is an Austrian-born American citizen and speech pathologist with family members in Palestine. Due to her support of BDS, Amawi had refused to sign a contract with a local school district for whom she had worked for nearly a decade which explicitly said she wouldn’t boycott Israel, and thus was forced to end her relationship with the school district.
In his opinion, Pitman directly took on the fact that just five lawmakers in the entire Texas legislature voted against the bill. “Texas touts these numbers as the statute’s strength,” Pitman wrote, in finding that the law violates the First Amendment. “They are, rather, its weakness.” Later, he wrote that “the statute threatens ‘to suppress unpopular ideas’ and ‘manipulate the public debate through coercion rather than persuasion.’ This the First Amendment does not allow.”