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AG Derek Schmidt defends anti-discrimination law

Release Date: Apr 12, 2021

TOPEKA – (April 12, 2021) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has joined a coalition of states defending an Arkansas law that prevents state subsidies of boycotts or other discriminatory actions against Israel.

The 16-state coalition is urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to rehear the case en banc after a 2-1 panel ruling against the law earlier this year. In 2017, the Arkansas Legislature passed the Arkansas 710 Act to prevent public entities from awarding contracts to companies who engage in boycotts against Israel. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), on behalf of the Arkansas Times, filed a lawsuit alleging the act violated the First Amendment.

Kansas passed a similar law in 2017, House Bill 2409, which like Arkansas’s act requires state contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotts, sanctions or discriminatory actions against Israel. Schmidt defended a similar challenge brought by the ACLU in Kansas. Legislators amended the 2017 law in 2018 to narrow the scope of the measure, and the lawsuit was dismissed.

The coalition argues the Arkansas act does not violate the First Amendment. The act regulates only economic conduct, not speech, and only affects what companies can receive taxpayer funds. Additionally, the coalition argues the act prohibits invidious discrimination based solely on nationality or national origin.

Nearly two-thirds of all states — 31 in all — have laws like Arkansas. Schmidt said that left uncorrected, the panel majority’s decision could be used to bring lawsuits against other states with similar laws including Kansas.

A copy of the brief can be found at https://bit.ly/3mCw6Sy.

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