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Overview

Virginia has no binding legislation targeting advocacy for Palestinian rights in effect. In 2023, Virginia lawmakers introduced anti-boycott bills that would prohibit state contracts with entities that boycott Israel and its illegal settlements as well as bills redefining antisemitism under Virginia’s anti-discrimination law to include advocacy for Palestinian rights (SB 1252/HB 1606). Advocacy and pressure from grassroots activists and civil liberties groups helped defeat similar bills in previous years. In 2016, Virginia lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution (HJ 177) that officially condemns boycotts for Palestinian rights.

State Legislation

Legislation
SB 1252 (2023)
Status
Pending
Introduced
January 2023
Type(s)
Antisemitism Redefinition
Full Text
Read SB 1252 (2023) 

SB 1252 is an antisemitism redefinition bill that adopts the distorted IHRA definition of antisemitism, including its contemporary examples that target advocacy for Palestinian rights, into state law addressing discrimination as well as other areas of law. Related bill: HB 1606.

Defeated Legislation

Legislation
HB 1161 (2022)
Status
Defeated
Defeated On
February 2022
Type(s)
Anti-boycott, State Contracts
Full Text
Read HB 1161 (2022) 

This anti-boycott bill requires state contractors to provide a written certification that they will not engage in boycotts of Israel or its illegal settlements. The bill excludes contracts whose total value is less than $10,000. 

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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