Disney vs. Governor DeSantis: A High-Stakes Legal Battle Over First Amendment Rights

In a high-stakes legal battle, Disney is suing Governor Ron DeSantis and the new special district board in Florida. The lawsuit, filed in April, claims that a series of laws signed by DeSantis were enacted in retaliation against Disney for exercising its first amendment rights. The laws in question dissolved Disney’s special district and were seen as a response to the company’s opposition to the “don’t say gay” law related to parental rights in schools.[0] Disney is seeking a court order to overturn the legislation, arguing that it violates its First Amendment rights.[1]

DeSantis, however, has asked to be removed from the suit based on legislative immunity.[2] His lawyers argue that neither he nor the secretary enforce any of the laws at issue, therefore Disney lacks standing to sue them.[3] They also claim that DeSantis is entitled to “absolute legislative immunity.”[4]

The lawsuit was filed shortly after the DeSantis-appointed board voted to void an agreement passed by the previous board that would have allowed Disney to maintain control over its operations even after the new board was installed.[1] This move by DeSantis further escalated tensions between the governor and Disney.

The clash between DeSantis and Disney began last year when the company publicly criticized the Parental Rights in Education Law, which restricts content concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in grades kindergarten through third grade.[3] Critics have referred to the law as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.[3] Disney’s opposition to the law led to a feud with DeSantis, who has made his war against the company a major part of his political identity.

Former President Trump has criticized DeSantis’ attacks on Disney as excessive, but the governor has continued to pursue his agenda.[5] He has sought to strip Disney of control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which encompasses the 27 square miles of land occupied by Disney Parks.[6] This move has the potential for financial repercussions for the people of Florida.

At face value, DeSantis’ efforts to dissolve Disney’s special district and install his own board may seem out of place with conservative governance.[7] However, proponents argue that DeSantis is taking a stand against “left-wing” social activism by major corporations in Florida.[7] The fight between DeSantis and Disney is not about the specific issue of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, but rather about the broader clash between conservative and progressive values.

In addition to the federal lawsuit, a Disney shareholder named Kenneth Simeone has also sued the company.[0] Simeone claims that Disney’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” law was negligent and has harmed the company’s stock price.[8] However, a Delaware court recently ruled that Simeone’s lawsuit was brought at the direction of a conservative legal organization and anti-abortion group, and that his disagreement with Disney’s position does not constitute evidence of wrongdoing.

The legal battle between Disney and DeSantis is ongoing, with attorneys for the state arguing that Disney lacks legal standing to sue the governor and the new district board.[9] They have also requested that the federal case be put on hold until a separate case in state court is resolved.[10]

As the fight continues, it remains to be seen who will come out on top. Disney, with its vast resources and legal team, appears to have the upper hand in the legal battle.[5] However, DeSantis has made it clear that he is willing to take on one of the world’s richest companies in order to push his conservative agenda. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for both Disney and the future of governance in Florida.

0. “Judge backs Disney in ‘don’t say gay’ records lawsuit” Orlando Sentinel, 28 Jun. 2023, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/2023/06/28/judge-backs-disney-in-dont-say-gay-records-lawsuit

1. “Judge Tosses Lawsuit From Disney Stockholder Backed by Conservative Law Firm” TheWrap, 29 Jun. 2023, https://www.thewrap.com/disney-lawsuit-tossed-dont-say-gay-florida-shareholder

2. “Disney Just Scored A Big Legal Victory, Just Not In Its Suit With Governor DeSantis” CinemaBlend, 29 Jun. 2023, https://www.cinemablend.com/theme-parks/disney-gets-legal-victor-not-in-suit-with-governor-desantis

3. “DeSantis asks federal judge to dismiss Disney lawsuit; claims immunity” WFTV Orlando, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.wftv.com/news/local/desantis-asks-federal-judge-dismiss-disney-lawsuit-claims-immunity/4JTDJPVD7NBRRF2PL2JXBME62I/

4. “BREAKING: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Files Motion to Dismiss Disney’s Federal Lawsuit” WDW News Today, 26 Jun. 2023, https://wdwnt.com/2023/06/breaking-florida-governor-ron-desantis-files-motion-to-dismiss-disneys-federal-lawsuit/

5. “Anaheim Shows Ron DeSantis How to Build a Better Mickey Mousetrap” zocalopublicsquare.org, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2023/06/27/136539/ideas/connecting-california/

6. “Disney vs. DeSantis Update: Florida Feud Background, Updates” Gizmodo, 27 Jun. 2023, https://gizmodo.com/disney-vs-desantis-florida-feud-background-latest-news-1850583220

7. “Former VP Pence Likens DeSantis to ‘The Radical Left’ for Disney Fight” WNDB – News Daytona Beach, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.newsdaytonabeach.com/stories/former-vp-pence-likens-desantis-to-the-radical-left-for-disney-fight,47232

8. “Disney Wins One As Delaware Judge Rules For Company In Shareholder Lawsuit” Deadline, 29 Jun. 2023, https://deadline.com/2023/06/disney-wins-shareholder-lawsuit-delaware-florida-desantis-dont-say-gay-law-1235426840

9. “Governor DeSantis Challenges Disney for Immunity From Lawsuit” Gizmodo, 26 Jun. 2023, https://gizmodo.com/desantis-challenges-disney-for-immunity-from-lawsuit-1850579199

10. “Disney lawsuit should be put on hold, special district argues” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 27 Jun. 2023, https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/state/2023/06/27/disney-lawsuit-should-be-put-on-hold-special-district-argues/70360306007/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top