Disney Files Lawsuit Against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Over “Don’t Say Gay” Law

Disney has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, alleging that he has engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. The suit comes after DeSantis passed a bill to limit discussion of sexual orientation and gender in schools, known colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.[0] Disney opposed the legislation, which restricted discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida schools from kindergarten to third grade. Critics dubbed the legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis has argued that the lawsuit has “no merit” and is politically motivated.[1]

The feud between Disney and DeSantis has escalated, with both sides suing each other. Disney most recently sued DeSantis on Wednesday, alleging that the Florida governor waged a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. The local governing board that oversees much of Walt Disney World also voted to sue the company as part of the ongoing political feud fueled by DeSantis. The five-member board voted unanimously to sue Disney in state court just days after the entertainment giant sued DeSantis, the board and other state officials in federal court.

DeSantis has faced growing criticism from Republicans in recent weeks for continuing the battle with Disney, including former New Jersey Gov.[2] Chris Christie, who said it was not “conservative” to tell companies what they can and cannot say, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said DeSantis has “gone on the wrong path.” Republican presidential candidates Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy on Sunday both took swipes at DeSantis over his dealings with Disney, as talk of a possible 2024 bid for the Florida governor swirls.

The Disney vs DeSantis feud has become a national story, with even President Joe Biden chiming in with his own dig at DeSantis’s Disney battle, saying during his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me and got to them first.”

The lawsuit filed by Disney alleges that DeSantis and his office have engaged in “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against Disney that was “orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.”[3] In the lawsuit, there are statements attributed to DeSantis and his supporters criticizing Disney for its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Law, commonly known as the “don’t say gay.” bill. This law aimed to restrict discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.

The feud between Disney and DeSantis shows no signs of slowing down, with both sides digging in for a long legal battle. As the fight continues, it remains to be seen how it will impact businesses considering moving to Florida and whether DeSantis’ actions will be seen as a warning to companies that they could face retaliation if they oppose the governor’s policies.

0. “DeSantis’ oversight board votes to sue Disney” Orlando Sentinel, 1 May. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/05/01/desantis-oversight-board-votes-to-sue-disney

1. “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/

2. “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/

3. “Controversial Citizens United precedent could end DeSantis-Disney feud” Business Insider, 30 Apr. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/citizens-united-supreme-court-precedent-political-hypocricy-desantis-disney-feud-2023-4

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