(CNN)The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging a state law that requires government contractors to certify they are not engaged in boycotts of Israel, the ACLU said.
ACLU sues Texas over law that says contractors can't boycott Israel
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four Texans, argues the law "forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their First Amendment rights."
It's the second lawsuit this week to challenge the state law, also known as an "anti-BDS" law for targeting those who participate in "boycott, divestment and sanctions" campaigns against Israel. The BDS movement aims to generate economic and political pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.
House Bill 89, enacted in 2017, prohibits all state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel. When Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law, a press release from his office said the measure showed "Texas' strong support for Israel" and declared that "anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies."
At least 25 other states have similar laws.
A provision of the Texas law stipulates that a governmental entity may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services unless the contract contains a written verification from the company that it does not boycott Israel and will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract, the lawsuit states.
"This case is not about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. This case is only about whether a government entity can dictate the political viewpoint of the contractors, including sole proprietors, with whom it does business," the lawsuit states.
"The First Amendment protects the rights of individuals and companies to participate in political boycotts. The state should be prohibited from forcing its own viewpoints on those who boycott Israel."
John Pluecker, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is described as a freelance writer, artist, interpreter and translator who has lost two service contracts with the University of Houston because he refused to certify that he will not boycott Israel, the lawsuit says.
The University of Houston said it is reviewing the lawsuit but noted that it was complying with state law.
"UH requires vendors entering into contracts for goods and services with UH to sign a certification form that they do not and will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract. This certification is required because of the recent state law that says for-profit vendors who enter into contracts to provide goods and services to state entities must verify that they do not and will not boycott Israel during the term of their contracts," the school said in a statement.
"The certification form is in use throughout the UH System. Also, certain standard UH contract forms include no-boycott certification language. After initial implementation, we received additional guidance from the Attorney General's office that such certification is not required for individual speakers and the University changed its requirement for individual speakers as a result."
Another plaintiff, Obinna Dennar, claims he was forced to forfeit payment for judging at a Klein Independent School District debate tournament because he actively participates in a BDS campaign. The district said it will "review and defend as appropriate" when served with the lawsuit.
Another plaintiff, Zachary Abdelhadi, is a Palestinian-American student at Texas State University who was unable to judge high school debate tournaments for the Lewisville Independent School District because he boycotts Israel, according to the lawsuit. The district said, "the ACLU's concern seems to be with the law itself" and noted that the complaint itself said it was following Texas state law.
Radio reporter George Hale was forced t