In a federal lawsuit, Disney has accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of violating their free speech rights. The company argues that if DeSantis wins the lawsuit, it will set a precedent for punishing entities that support a "disfavored viewpoint." Disney firmly believes that the First Amendment protects the right to free speech, even if it contradicts government powers.
Allegations Against DeSantis
Disney's lawsuit contends that DeSantis unconstitutionally took control of Walt Disney World's governing district as an act of retaliation. This action followed Disney's public opposition to a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. It is worth noting that DeSantis actively supported this law and is currently campaigning for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Previously, Disney supporters had been in control of the district responsible for providing municipal services for Disney World's expansive 25,000-acre (10,117-hectare) property. These services included vital functions like road repairs and waste collection. However, earlier this year, DeSantis appointed his own representatives, effectively taking over the district.
Disney remains steadfast in its fight to protect its free speech rights and calls for the court to dismiss DeSantis' motion to discard their First Amendment lawsuit in Tallahassee.
Disney's Battle with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District
In a recent statement, Disney expressed their strong stance against the actions taken by the Governor, highlighting the severity of the retaliation they faced. As a result of Disney's comments, the State swiftly stripped the company of its voting rights within the governing body responsible for overseeing Disney's use of its own private property.
The defendants, which include the Governor and a state agency, along with DeSantis-appointed individuals on the board of the newly established Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, have dismissed the First Amendment lawsuit as baseless, citing their immunity from liability.
Simultaneously, in a separate legal battle, Disney is challenging the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in state court based in Orlando.
Disney, on the other hand, has responded with counterclaims. Their counterclaims seek a declaration from the state court, affirming the validity and enforceability of the agreements made.