Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state representative, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan and Attorney General Brian Frosh, taking aim at an executive order denying government contracts to businesses that boycott Israel. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun video)

There is a fundamental flaw in the recent op-ed opposing Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order prohibiting discriminatory boycotts of Israel in state contracts with businesses (“Md. lawsuit: Punishing companies for boycotting Israel violates First Amendment rights,” Jan. 22).

The op-ed asserts that the executive order prohibits “the state from doing business with individuals and entities that engage in or support a boycott of Israeli businesses.”

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Among the examples it cites are actions taken in other states against residents of a town seeking recovery aid after Hurricane Harvey, a speech-language pathologist, and a university lecturer because they supported the boycott.

However, the governor’s executive order is limited to procurement contracts with a business entity. It defines a contract as an agreement between the state and a business entity "to sell or lease supplies or goods, or to provide services."

The state of Maryland frequently uses state contracts to make statements about what we believe. We encourage the growth of minority- and women-owned businesses and prohibit businesses from discriminating.

The executive order focuses on business entities that choose to participate in the discriminatory economic boycott of Israel — an effort whose aim, according to its founders, is ultimately the delegitimization and destruction of the State of Israel.

A similar lawsuit in Kansas was dismissed because the legislature narrowed the scope of the law, making it apply only to businesses and not individuals and to contracts higher than $100,000.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent in the Citizens United case, wrote of the Founders, “When they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.”

Governor Hogan’s executive order lawfully regulates business activity. It does not limit the free speech of individuals.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, Sen. Bobby Zirkin and Dels. Dalya Attar, Tony Bridges, Jon Cardin, Shelly Hettleman and Dana Stein, Annapolis

The writers are Democrats representing Baltimore City and County in the General Assembly.

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