Disney Sues Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for Government Retaliation, Threatening Business Operations and Constitutional Rights

The longstanding feud between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has escalated with the entertainment giant suing DeSantis for leading a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the company. In its lawsuit, Disney alleges that DeSantis’ actions threaten its business operations in the region, jeopardize its economic future, and violate its constitutional rights.[0] The lawsuit also cites DeSantis’ memoir, which he is currently promoting ahead of his widely anticipated presidential run.[1]

The conflict began when Disney criticized Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, known to critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.[2] DeSantis, who signed the law, called a special session to end Disney’s self-governing status and take control of the special district that governs Disney’s properties in Central Florida.[3]

The feud intensified when Disney quietly outmaneuvered the DeSantis-appointed board and struck a decades-long deal to ensure it retained authority over the land around its sprawling Orlando-area theme parks.[4] DeSantis responded by signing a law granting himself the authority to appoint a five-member board to oversee the district, which would be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.[5] Before the board could take over, the previous members of the Reedy Creek district signed an agreement to give Disney developmental authority over the theme park.

The new board eventually realized that the agreement had transferred much of the district’s powers to Disney and sought to nullify it. Disney responded by suing DeSantis, stating that it needed to protect itself against a “relentless effort to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”

DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, responded to the lawsuit by stating that the state was “unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state.” Fenske also accused Disney of attempting to “undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”

The conflict has drawn criticism from Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who suggested that South Carolina would happily accept Disney’s 70,000+ jobs if the company wanted to leave Florida.[6] Haley tweeted that “SC’s not woke, but we’re not sanctimonious about it either.”

The lawsuit marks a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict between Disney and DeSantis. The outcome of the lawsuit could have wide-ranging implications for the future of Disney’s operations in Florida and the relationship between the entertainment giant and the state government.

0. “DeSantis dismisses Disney lawsuit over loss of self-governance as ‘political'” CNBC, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/04/27/desantis-dismisses-disney-lawsuit-over-loss-of-self-governance-as-political.html

1. “Disney Tells Ron DeSantis: Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes” The New Republic, 26 Apr. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/172225/disney-lawsuit-ron-desantis-play-stupid-games-win-stupid-prizes

2. “DeSantis’ Disney district board: ‘We are going to have to raise taxes'” WKMG News 6 & ClickOrlando, 26 Apr. 2023, https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2023/04/26/desantis-disney-district-board-expected-to-launch-legal-battle/

3. “Disney lawsuit claims Ron DeSantis engaged in “retaliatory” acts” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 26 Apr. 2023, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/politics/2023/04/26/disney-lawsuit-claims-ron-desantis-engaged-in-retaliatory-acts/70154588007/

4. “Disney has a ‘strong case’ against DeSantis, First Amendment experts say” ABC Action News Tampa Bay, 27 Apr. 2023, https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/disney-has-a-strong-case-against-desantis-over-his-retaliatory-campaign-first-amendment-experts-say

5. “Rubio warns against Florida going after companies for ‘political purposes’” The Hill, 27 Apr. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/3976235-rubio-warns-against-florida-going-after-companies-for-political-purposes/

6. “Disney sues Ron DeSantis in battle over control of Florida resort” The Guardian US, 26 Apr. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/26/disney-sues-governor-ron-desantis-florida-resort

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