Disney Files Lawsuit Against Florida Governor for Targeted Campaign of Retaliation

Disney has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, alleging that he has engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” that is harming the company’s business operations.[0] This legal action is the latest development in a feud that has been brewing between Disney and DeSantis since last year, when the state legislature passed a bill to restrict discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools. The measure, known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was signed into law by DeSantis in March.

Disney has criticized DeSantis for restricting discussion of sexual orientation in schools, and the company has pledged to support organizations working to repeal or challenge the law. In response, DeSantis has sought to take control over Disney’s special tax district that allows the theme park to govern itself.[0] A Central Florida Tourism Oversight District appointed by DeSantis was established after the Florida Legislature dissolved the previous governing board of the district.[1] As per the lawsuit, the agreement formed prior to the establishment of CFTOD was invalidated by the board.[1]

The Disney-DeSantis feud escalated over the last two months when the company effectively outmaneuvered the governor’s attempts to wrest control of the district away from it.[2] A new agreement between Disney and its original board strips the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, DeSantis’s new creation, of many of its powers by requiring it to obtain permission from Disney before making any changes.[2] As per the agreement, Disney was granted permission to build another theme park on the unexplored land it possesses in the area.[2] Though the board gave public notice of the proposed changes in the proper forums, DeSantis’s office did not know about it until the agreement had already been signed.[2]

DeSantis’s battle with Disney began after the Florida Republicans passed a bill to limit discussion of sexual orientation and gender in schools, known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis has argued that the suit has “no merit” and is politically motivated.[3] The communications director for Gov is Taryn Fenske.[1] According to Ron DeSantis, in an interview with ABC News, there is no legal basis for a company to have its own government or receive preferential treatment not afforded to other businesses in the state.[4]

However, critics argue that DeSantis’s actions against Disney are a form of retaliation for the company’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.[2] They point out that Disney’s special tax district was created in collaboration with the Florida Legislature in 1967 and has been in place for over 50 years. They argue that DeSantis’s attempts to dissolve the district and create a new oversight board are a violation of Disney’s legal rights.

The feud between Disney and DeSantis is a reflection of the broader political battle over LGBTQ rights in Republican-led states. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is just one of many similar measures that have been passed in recent years, and it has faced criticism from major companies and activist groups. The legal battle between Disney and DeSantis is likely to continue, and it remains to be seen how it will be resolved.

0. “Cracks showing in Florida GOP support for DeSantis’ war with Disney” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/politics/2023/04/26/cracks-showing-in-florida-gop-support-for-desantis-war-with-disney/70156637007/

1. “Disney sues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and officials over ‘targeted campaign of government retaliation'” ABC News, 26 Apr. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/Business/disney-sues-florida-gov-ron-desantis-officials-targeted/story?id=98877157

2. “Disney’s Lawsuit Against Ron DeSantis Could Get Very Weird” The New Republic, 28 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/article/172292/disney-desantis-lawsuit-reedy-creek

3. “GOP presidential contenders knock DeSantis over Disney” The Hill, 30 Apr. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3980792-gop-presidential-contenders-knock-desantis-over-disney/

4. “Federal judge presiding over Disney’s lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis recuses himself” Yahoo Finance, 29 Apr. 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/federal-judge-presiding-over-disneys-012153009.html

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