Disney sounds a stark warning over outcome of Ron DeSantis legal battle

Ron DeSantis looking upwards while American flags stand beside him.

Disney has issued a warning about the future of the First Amendment if Ron DeSantis wins a federal lawsuit against the company.

The First amendment protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In court documents on Monday (30 October), the multimedia business expressed concerns that, if Florida governor DeSantis wins the case, it would set a precedent for him to pursue other organisations that oppose his views.

The Florida government unconstitutionally altered the governing district of Disney’s world-famous theme park, after the company voiced opposition to a law banning the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms, the lawsuit alleges.

“If the line is not drawn here, there is no line at all,” the company claimed. “The retaliation against Disney for crossing the governor’s ‘line’ was swift and severe.

“For the explicitly stated purpose of punishing Disney for its comments, the state immediately stripped Disney of its voting rights in the governing body that oversees Disney’s use of its own private property.”

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Prior to the takeover, the district was headed by pro-Disney officials for more than five decades. They presided over infrastructure concerns such as road repairs and waste collection on land it owned.

In May, in response to the DeSantis lawsuit, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, which oversees the region, countersued, with chairman Martin Garcia saying: “We have no choice now but to respond.”

DeSantis has sought to have the lawsuit – reportedly set to cost upwards of $4.5 million (£3.7 million) of taxpayers’ money – dismissed.

Disney – often known as the House of Mouse – argued that if DeSantis was to have his way, it wouldn’t be the last entity to be punished for supporting what it called a “disfavoured viewpoint.”

Florida has among the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the US, with some residents leaving the state because of fears for queer family members.

Since becoming governor in 2019, DeSantis has enacted the Don’t Say Gay censorship legislation preventing the discussion of queer topics in schools, and signed a string of anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law, including the banning of gender-affirming care for trans youth, restricting the use of public toilets by trans people and trans young people’s access to sports programmes.

In May, the Human Rights Campaign, along with Equality Florida and other human rights groups, issued a travel advisory warning to those intending to visit the Sunshine State.

The warning advised LGBTQ+ travellers to make a “clear safety plan” if they absolutely have to travel to Florida and urged them to “show extreme care” around airports and bus stations.

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