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Civil rights groups vow lawsuit over Israel boycott law

March 9, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018 file photo, Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McBride, listens during a committee hearing in Oklahoma City. Two Oklahoma civil rights groups said Monday they intend to sue the state if the Legislature passes a bill, authored by McBride, that prohibit state contracts with companies that boycott Israel. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018 file photo, Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McBride, listens during a committee hearing in Oklahoma City. Two Oklahoma civil rights groups said Monday they intend to sue the state if the Legislature passes a bill, authored by McBride, that prohibit state contracts with companies that boycott Israel. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two Oklahoma civil rights groups said Monday they intend to sue the state if the Legislature passes a bill to prohibit state contracts with companies that boycott Israel.

Attorneys with the Oklahoma chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Council on American-Islamic Relations both say House Bill 3967, which passed the House last week, is unconstitutional.

The bill provides that the state not enter into contracts with companies that advocate boycotts, divestments or sanctions against Israel. The bill’s author, Republican Rep. Mark McBride of Moore, says the bill recognizes Israel as an important trading partner and ally in the Middle East.

Mike Redman, the interim director of ACLU of Oklahoma, said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that economic and political boycotts are a form of political speech enshrined and protected by the First Amendment.

“The ACLU has a long history of challenging this type of legislation,” Redman said.

Federal judges in Arizona, Kansas and Texas have blocked similar laws from taking effect, while a judge in neighboring Arkansas let a similar law stand. The Arkansas case is currently being appealed.