Disney Expands Lawsuit Against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in Ongoing Feud Over Protected Speech

The ongoing feud between Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has escalated once again, with Disney expanding its lawsuit against the governor. The lawsuit, originally filed in April, accuses DeSantis of orchestrating a targeted campaign of government retaliation against Disney for its protected speech, which has threatened the company’s business operations, jeopardized its economic future in the region, and violated its constitutional rights.[0] The suit alleges that DeSantis has been punishing Disney since 2022, when the company publicly criticized a Florida bill that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

The conflict between Disney and DeSantis started when then-CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement opposing DeSantis-backed legislation banning the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. Since then, DeSantis has been at war with Disney, and his most recent move was to sign a bill that voids development agreements that Disney had struck with its oversight board before DeSantis had chosen new supervisors to oversee the Orlando parks.[1]

Disney alleges that DeSantis violated the company’s constitutional rights by dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the public entity that oversaw its Florida resort property, and replaced it with a board controlled by the governor after the company opposed DeSantis’ ‘don’t say gay’ bill.[2] The Reedy Creek Improvement District, created in the 1960s, gave Disney self-governance power in the areas surrounding its Florida parks.[3]

DeSantis then engineered a takeover of the 25,000-acre special district, which had essentially allowed Disney to run local government services in the areas surrounding the company’s Florida parks since 1967.[4] The governing board of the district has been substituted with a newly formed panel called Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, comprising of DeSantis-affiliated appointees.[4] DeSantis appeared to have emerged victorious in his campaign against “woke,” a battle that he is said to be using to bolster his chances of becoming the next GOP presidential candidate.[4]

In its amended lawsuit, Disney alleges that DeSantis and his allies have “no apparent intent to moderate their retaliatory campaign any time soon.”[1] The company regrets that it has come to this, but it was left with no choice but to file the lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain state officials.[5]

Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way, but it also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the state’s retaliation.[5] The company believes that in America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.[5] The ongoing legal battle between Disney and DeSantis shows no signs of slowing down, and it remains to be seen how it will ultimately be resolved.

0. “Florida legislature approves bill allowing DeSantis-appointed board to cancel Disney agreements” The Hill, 5 May. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3990125-florida-legislature-approves-bill-allowing-desantis-appointed-board-to-cancel-disney-agreements/

1. “Disney expands suit against DeSantis after he signs bill to void its deals (NYSE:DIS)” Seeking Alpha, 8 May. 2023, https://seekingalpha.com/news/3967342-disney-expands-suit-against-desantis-after-he-signs-bill-to-void-its-deals

2. “Disney tries to derail DeSantis’ war with expanded lawsuit” Daily Mail, 8 May. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12060753/Disney-tries-derail-DeSantis-war-expanded-lawsuit.html

3. “Disney updates federal lawsuit against Governor DeSantis following his decision to cancel agreements” ActionNewsJax.com, 8 May. 2023, https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/disney-updates-federal-lawsuit-against-governor-desantis-following-his-decision-cancel-agreements/HMQSIJWW7BAK5HF6ATX47AJDNE/

4. “Disney Should Thank DeSantis for His Big Dumb Mouth” New York Magazine, 3 May. 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/05/disney-should-thank-ron-desantis-for-his-big-dumb-mouth.html

5. “Disney amends federal lawsuit to include recent legislative actions” News 13 Orlando, 8 May. 2023, https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2023/05/08/disney-amends-federal-lawsuit-to-include-recent-legislative-actions

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