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Hogan signs order barring contractors from boycotting Israel

Rachel Baye

Maryland’s government won’t contract with any company that boycotts Israeli products or services over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The change is the result of a new executive order Gov. Larry Hogan signed Monday opposing the BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement.

Under the order, any company competing for a state contract needs to certify in writing that it won’t boycott Israeli products or services.

The order mirrors legislation introduced in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate in this year’s legislative session. Both measures died in committee. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who sponsored the Senate version, said even with the executive order, he would like to see a more lasting version passed into statute.

Hogan said the state will also end any existing contracts with companies that participate in the BDS movement, but he’s not sure whether any current contracts are at risk.

“Boycotts based on religion, national origin, ethnicity or place of residence are discriminatory,” Hogan said, “and contracting with businesses that practice discrimination would make the state a passive participant in private sector commercial discrimination.”

The announcement comes 12 days after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Kansas over a new law that also requires state contractors to certify they won’t boycott Israel. The ACLU’s lawsuit says Kansas’ law violates contractors’ freedom to express political views.

Hogan's executive order is "almost identical" to Kansas' law, said David Rocah, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland.

"The Supreme Court has made clear for decades that participation in political boycotts is expression fully protected by the First Amendment," Rocah said. "The governor's attempt to impose a political litmus test on who can be a state contractor is quite clearly unconstitutional."

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.