A federal judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

A federal judge has dismissed the Walt Disney Company’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Disney sued after DeSantis and state lawmakers removed its self-governing status in 2023.

Backed by Republican lawmakers, DeSantis dissolved a special district near Orlando that for more than fifty years had governed Walt Disney World. He acted after Disney’s CEO opposed a law limiting how sex orientation and gender identity can be discussed in the schools. The Parental Rights in Education Act was labeled “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents.

At DeSantis’ request, Florida’s GOP-controlled legislature created a new special district, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, controlled by the Republican Governor’s appointees. Disney sued in federal court, saying DeSantis was retaliating against the company, punishing it for exercising its First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Disney also canceled plans for a $1 billion campus in Florida.

In a 17-page order, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor dismissed the case, saying Disney lacks standing to sue the governor. The judge also said while Disney could sue the new DeSantis-appointed board, it hadn’t shown evidence that actions by the new board had harmed the company. In addition, Winsor said the law prohibits plaintiffs from bringing a free speech challenge to constitutionally enacted laws.

A DeSantis spokesman hailed the decision saying, “the Corporate Kingdom is over. The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone. Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state and they do not have a right to their own special government.”

Disney says it will “press forward with its case.” In a statement after the ruling, a company spokesperson said, “If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with.”

Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board are also embroiled in lawsuits in state court.

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  • January 31, 2024
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