Disney Lawsuit Dismissed Alleging Retaliation By Florida Governor

Walt Disney Logo (Credits: Walt Disney)

On Wednesday, a judge dismissed Disney’s federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other defendants, alleging retaliation against the company for criticizing a controversial parental rights education law supported by the governor.

Judge Allen Winsor ruled that Disney lacked legal standing to sue DeSantis and the Secretary of Florida’s Commerce Department for violating its First Amendment rights. Winsor also found Disney’s claims against members of the board of a special improvement district, where the company operates its parks and resort, to be without merit.

The judge cited federal appeals court rulings stating that when a law is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot sue on free-speech grounds by alleging that lawmakers passed it with an impermissible purpose.

Disney announced it would appeal Winsor’s ruling, which came after the company effectively controlled the district’s board until the Florida legislature significantly altered its structure and renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) last year.

The governor now selects board members, pending confirmation by the state Senate.

Ron DeSantis (Credits: Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com/Pool/AP)

The CFTOD, under its new structure, nullified a development agreement with Disney approved by its predecessor, the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Disney alleged that these changes were punitive after the company criticized legislation known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which restricts classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity.

DeSantis, who championed the law, cited his conflict with Disney during his presidential bid. He and other defendants sought to dismiss Disney’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

A Disney spokesperson emphasized the case’s importance for the rule of law, stating that leaving the ruling unchallenged would set a dangerous precedent allowing states to misuse their official powers against political viewpoints they disagree with.

Disney World (Credits: Getty Images)

DeSantis’ spokesman celebrated the decision, asserting that Disney cannot wield undue influence and that the company is subject to the same laws as others in the state.

Martin Garcia, chairman of the CFTOD, expressed relief at the lawsuit’s dismissal, calling it a distraction. He emphasized the district’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and prosperity for Florida residents.

The ruling does not affect Disney’s state lawsuit seeking to overturn the CFTOD board’s decision to revoke its development agreement. Winsor noted that Disney failed to demonstrate an imminent future injury to justify injunctive relief and lacked standing to sue the Commerce Department secretary.

Nate O'Hara
Nathan is a seasoned commerce writer with a passion for unraveling the intricacies of the business world and distilling them into engaging narratives. During his academic journey, he delved deep into subjects like economics, marketing, and entrepreneurship, honing his analytical skills and developing a keen understanding of market dynamics.