Disney sues Florida governor Ron DeSantis over ‘targeted campaign of government retaliation’

Disney World in Florida

Disney has sued Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, amid a months-long bitter feud. 

The House of Mouse has launched legal action against DeSantis over his take-over of the park’s special district, filing the lawsuit just moments after an oversight board, appointed by DeSantis, voted against a deal which gave Disney design and construction control over its properties. 

Disney claims voting against the deal will cost the company billions of dollars and the state thousands of jobs. 

The entertainment giant said it “regrets that it has come to this”, stating in legal documents: “The Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.”

Disney went on to say DeSantis’ behaviour is “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business and patently unconstitutional”. 

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” the lawsuit outlines. 

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In response, the governor’s deputy press executive Jeremy Redfern shared a statement. 

“We are 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,” the social media post reads.

“This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”

The feud between DeSantis and the Happiest Place on Earth has been on-going for more than a year, after the GOP politician passed his controversial and cruel Don’t Say Gay law. 

The feud has been boiling for months

In March 2022, DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Bill in law, a piece of legislation which banned LGBTQ+ topics and discussions from classrooms in Florida schools up to the third grade.  

The law has been expanded twice since then, with all grades in the state of Florida now covered by ‘Don’t Say Gay’. 

Activists have warned the vague wording of the legislation means teachers could be afraid to discuss anything which could be misconstrued as breaching the act, leading to self-censorship and LGBTQ+ teachers going into the closet at work. 

After protests from staff and weeks of silence by one of Florida’s biggest employers, Disney CEO of the time Bob Chapek announced the company’s opposition to the bill. 

“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights, and I let you down,” he wrote in a company wide email to staff. 

“I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”

In retaliation for the affront, DeSantis sought to strip Disney of its special status in Florida. 

Since 1967, the company has had near-total control of the area in which its sprawling properties are based – called the Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

The 50-year-old agreement between state and company sees Disney exempt from things such as property tax, whilst at the same time having autonomous control over things such as its own fire service. 

Taking control of the area in February and putting a board of hand-picked conservatives in charge, DeSantis said the “corporate kingdom has come to an end” and described himself as the new “sheriff in charge”. 

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