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Overview

Virginia has no binding legislation targeting advocacy for Palestinian rights in effect. In 2016, Virginia lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution (HJ 177) that officially condemns boycotts for Palestinian rights. Two other measures, which would have become binding laws, each failed following advocacy and pressure from grassroots activists. These measures include a 2016 anti-boycott bill (HB 1282) and a 2017 effort (HB 2261) to redefine antisemitism under Virginia’s antidiscrimination law to include advocacy for Palestinian rights.

State Legislation

Defeated Legislation

Legislation
HB 2261
Status
Defeated
Defeated On
February 2017
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read HB 2261 

This antisemitism redefinition bill amends Virginia’s Human Rights Act to adopt the 2010 US State Department fact sheet definition of antisemitism, including the contemporary examples related to Israel of “demonizing Israel,” “applying a double standard to Israel,” and “delegitimizing Israel.” The bill requires the consideration of this distorted definition when investigating discrimination complaints under the Human Rights Act or in the context of public institutions of higher education, meaning that political speech supportive of Palestinian rights could be deemed unlawful discrimination in the workplace, in public accommodations, and in educational institutions in Virginia.

Defeated Legislation

Legislation
HB 1282
Status
Defeated
Defeated On
December 2016
Type(s)
Anti-boycott, State Contracts
Full Text
Read HB 1282 

The introduced version of this anti-boycott bill prohibited state contracts above $10,000 unless the contractor provided written certification that the contractor would not engage in a boycott of Israel for the duration of the contract or hire subcontractors engaged in such boycotts. The bill was later amended and watered down to direct the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to work with the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board to implement practices to “ensure free, fair, open, and consistent business practices” related to BDS. Advocacy and pressure from grassroots activists, including the Freedom2Boycott – Virginia coalition (the predecessor of the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights), helped defeat the bill.

Resolutions

Legislation
HJ 177
Status
Passed
Date Passed
March 2016
Full Text
Read HJ 177 

HJ 177 is non-binding resolution that condemns boycotts for Palestinian rights. The resolution expresses the sense of the Virginia General Assembly in opposing academic, cultural, and economic boycotts and “all efforts to assault the legitimacy of the State of Israel as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people.”

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