The Disney vs. DeSantis Legal Battle: A Clash of Free Speech and Corporate Power

In a recent legal battle between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a federal judge dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against the governor and his allies.[0] The lawsuit was filed by Disney after it criticized a law restricting conversations about sexuality and gender in schools and subsequently had its self-governing status removed by DeSantis.[1] Disney accused DeSantis of retaliation and alleged that the law violated its First Amendment rights.

However, Judge Allen Winsor ruled that Disney lacked legal standing to sue DeSantis and the Secretary of Florida’s Commerce Department.[2] The judge also stated that the claims against the new oversight board created by DeSantis failed on merit. Winsor argued that Disney had not shown evidence of imminent harm or injury and that the law in question was constitutionally enacted.

The conflict between Disney and DeSantis began when Disney spoke out against a bill championed by the governor that banned certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms.[3] Disney’s then-CEO, Bob Chapek, called the bill a “challenge to basic human rights.”[4] In response, DeSantis dissolved the special district that had governed Walt Disney World for over 50 years and appointed his own oversight board.[1] This move prompted Disney to file the lawsuit, claiming that it was being punished for exercising its right to free speech.

Disney’s lawsuit argued that DeSantis was using the state government as a tool of political retaliation and attempting to squelch free speech. The company claimed that DeSantis had a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” against them. However, the judge ultimately ruled in favor of DeSantis, stating that Disney lacked standing to sue and that the claims lacked merit.[5]

Disney has stated that it will appeal the judge’s ruling.[6] The company believes that the case has serious implications for the rule of law and that allowing states to punish political viewpoints they disagree with would set a dangerous precedent. Disney is determined to press forward with the case.[1]

In addition to the federal lawsuit, Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s board are also embroiled in lawsuits in state court.[7] Disney filed a public records lawsuit against the oversight district, and there is another case in which the district is the plaintiff and Disney is the defendant, seeking a ruling that development agreements reached by Disney and the former governing board are “null and void.”[8]

The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for the relationship between corporations and state governments. If Disney’s appeal is successful, it could set a precedent for protecting the free speech rights of corporations and preventing state governments from using their powers to retaliate against political viewpoints they disagree with. However, if the judge’s ruling is upheld, it could give more power to state governments to regulate and control corporations within their jurisdictions.

Overall, this case highlights the complex dynamics between corporations and governments, particularly when it comes to issues of free speech and political expression. It remains to be seen how the appeals process will unfold and what the final outcome will be.

0. “Judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit alleging retaliation by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis” CNBC, 31 Jan. 2024,

1. “Jerome Powell praises US economy | Latest US politics news from The Economist” The Economist, 1 Feb. 2024,

2. “DeSantis wins as judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit against him”, 31 Jan. 2024,

3. “Judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies” Yahoo Finance, 31 Jan. 2024,

4. “Disney files appeal after judge dismisses lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and allies” CNN, 1 Feb. 2024,

5. “Disney files appeal after judge dismissed lawsuit against Ron DeSantis” Axios, 2 Feb. 2024,

6. “Disney taking its fight with DeSantis to a federal appeals court” Florida Phoenix, 1 Feb. 2024,

7. “Disney, DeSantis legal battle: Lawsuit against governor dismissed” WESH 2 Orlando, 1 Feb. 2024,

8. “Although lawsuit dismissal is a ‘blow to Disney,’ case against Gov. Ron DeSantis not over, says expert – Orlando …” The Business Journals, 31 Jan. 2024,

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