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Appeals court tosses lawsuit on Texas law boycotting Israel

April 29, 2020 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court tossed out a lawsuit that alleged Texas violated free-speech rights with a law banning government contracts for supporters of a boycott movement against Israel.

The ruling delivered Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 2019 order from an Austin federal judge that had temporarily blocked enforcement of the law.

A three-judge panel determined the legal challenge was moot, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The change adopted by the Legislature in 2019 meant the Texas law no longer included individuals who supported the BDS movement — Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

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The appeals court declined to weigh the merits of the statute.

Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, which helped challenge the law, said the lawsuit accomplished a major goal.

“The 5th Circuit ruling today simply affirms that the Legislature’s retreat means Texans whose livelihood is dependent on government contracts cannot be forced to disavow their First Amendment right to boycott,” Saldivar said. “The government cannot impose ideological litmus tests or tell Texans what issues they may or may not support as a condition of hiring.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the appeals court for vacating the lower-court injunction.

“The state of Texas has the right to boycott boycotters in this instance,” he said. “Doing so does not suppress protected speech or expression and supports a long-established principle of non-discrimination.”