Disney Cancels $1bn Campus Plans Amid Legal Dispute with Florida Governor Over LGBTQ+ Education Restrictions

Disney’s legal dispute with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis escalated last week as the company cancelled plans for a $1bn corporate campus in the state.[0] The move comes after attorneys for DeSantis filed a motion to disqualify Judge Mark E. Walker in the ongoing legal dispute with Disney over allegations of retaliation.[1] Attorneys argued that Walker’s remarks in a previous case gave “an appearance of partiality” that could lead to a biased ruling against the state.[2] Disney has accused DeSantis of launching a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company after it spoke out against a Florida bill that limits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.[3] The dispute highlights the tension between cultural issues and business concerns in Florida, with Disney providing a major boost to the state’s economy as its largest tourist attraction.[4]

The dispute began last year when Disney spoke out against DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bans the discussion of homosexuality and LGBTQ issues in schools among younger children.[5] The company’s opposition to the bill led to a feud with DeSantis, who later signed a controversial 2022 law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The law was titled “Parental Rights in Education” by supporters but dubbed “don’t say gay” by detractors.[6] Disney, which employs 80,000 people in Florida, responded by cancelling plans for a new employee campus in Orlando.[6]

The dispute shows no signs of abating, with both parties engaging in legal and legislative manoeuvring.[7] DeSantis has sought to remove tax and regulatory exemptions from Disney, while the company has filed a lawsuit accusing the governor of violating its First Amendment rights.[7] The dispute has had a polarising effect on the public, with Democrats and Republicans divided in their opinions of Disney. The company was ranked as the fifth most polarising brand in a recent survey, with its reputational score plunging among Republicans but rising among Democrats.[8] The dispute has highlighted the potential for cultural issues to impact business concerns and the wider economy in Florida.

0. “Disney is getting the best of DeSantis in ongoing feud” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 23 May. 2023, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/opinion/letters/2023/05/23/disney-is-getting-the-best-of-desantis-in-ongoing-feud-mickey-mouse/70239732007/

1. “Disney Responds to DeSantis’ Request to Disqualify Judge in Ongoing Legal Battle” The DIS, 26 May. 2023, https://www.wdwinfo.com/news-stories/disney-responds-to-desantis-request-to-disqualify-judge-in-ongoing-legal-battle/

2. “DeSantis and the judge his administration can’t stand” POLITICO, 22 May. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/05/22/ron-desantis-judge-mark-walker-00098122

3. “Disney CEO Bob Iger Nuked Ron DeSantis as a Threat in Just Six Months” Newsweek, 22 May. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/disney-bob-iger-ron-desantis-florida-1801820

4. “Disney World Guests Worried About Current State of Florida” Inside the Magic, 24 May. 2023, https://insidethemagic.net/2023/05/disney-world-guests-worried-about-current-state-of-florida-jnw1/

5. “Is DeSantis Vs. Disney Hurting The Mouse House? What A Survey Reveals – Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS)” Benzinga, 24 May. 2023, https://www.benzinga.com/general/entertainment/23/05/32546286/is-desantis-vs-disney-hurting-the-mouse-house-what-a-survey-reveals

6. “Ron DeSantis thinks his feud with Disney will pay off. Here’s why” BBC, 23 May. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-65676131

7. “The Lose-Lose DeSantis-Disney Fight” The American Prospect, 24 May. 2023, https://prospect.org/power/2023-05-24-lose-lose-desantis-disney-fight

8. “Disney’s reputation takes massive hit amid feud with Ron DeSantis: survey” New York Post , 24 May. 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/05/24/disney-popularity-falls-in-light-of-row-with-ron-desantis-poll/

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