Federal judge finds Georgia anti-BDS law unconstitutional

A US federal judge ruled Monday that Georgia’s anti-BDS law, which prohibits state contractors from boycotting Israel, violates the First Amendment and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Abby Martin won her suit against the University System of Georgia after Georgia Southern University (GSU) representatives revoked Martin’s invitation to speak at the 2020 International Critical Media Library Conference. GSU’s proposed contract with Martin included a certification, which stated, “You certify that you are not currently engaged in, and agree for the duration of this agreement not to engage in, a boycott of Israel, as defined in O.C.G.A.” Martin, an Israel boycott advocate who supports Palestinian rights and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (“BDS”) movement, declined to sign the agreement. Consequently, GSU revoked Martin’s invitation and canceled the conference.

Martin filed suit in the Northern District of Georgia and claimed that GSU deprived her of an opportunity to showcase her work and that she would likely be prevented from speaking at other University System of Georgia campuses. She contended that O.C.G.A. § 50-5-85 infringed on her free speech, free association, and due process rights, and requested that the court declare the statute unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Martin’s claim arguing that O.C.G.A. § 50-5-85 was constitutional.

The court ruled in favor of Martin, and found that O.C.G.A. § 50-5-85 implicated contractors’ First Amendment rights because the certification requirement was “unconstitutional compelled speech.” The court also found that the statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it was “impermissibly vague,”as a reasonable person could speculate as to what conduct it prohibited.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and CAIR National, which joined Martin in challenging Georgia’s anti-BDS law, called this win a “Huge Victory.” Martin stated that she “look[s] forward to the law being formally struck, but [is] very excited that Georgia’s anti-BDS law is now unenforceable due to the judge ruling it unconstitutional.”