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Disney sues Florida Governor amid 'Don't Say Gay' feud

An image of the Walt Disney World castle in Florida.
An image of the Walt Disney World castle in Florida.

Disney has sued Florida Governor Ron DeSantis amid a months-long feud sparked by the company’s opposition to the state’s 2022 anti-LGBTQ+ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

The mass media and entertainment conglomerate filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, April 26, only minutes after an oversight board appointed by DeSantis voted to scrap a development deal which gave Disney design and construction control over its Disney World resort and theme park complex. 

The Republican Florida Governor has urged state legislators to target Disney and its Florida theme park — the state’s largest taxpayer and nation’s largest single-site employer — with a multitude of hostile measures. Last week, he announced plans to subject Disney to new ride inspection regulations.

The First Amendment lawsuit filed by Disney on Wednesday is against DeSantis and the oversight board. Filed in federal court, the lawsuit claims “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

DeSantis has been accused of “a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint.” The lawsuit adds that the governor’s reprisal “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region and violates its constitutional rights.” 

The “political viewpoint” Disney expressed was a statement released last year condemning the governor’s signing of the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, an anti-LGBTQ+ bill labelled by opponents as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The law restricts classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity and allows parents to sue a school district if they think the policy has been violated — the administration has since expanded the law to Grade 12.

Disney’s statement condemning the law came after pressure from its employees for not taking a public stand against the legislation earlier. In its 2022 statement, the media conglomerate wrote its “goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down by the courts.”

“We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of L.G.B.T.Q.+ members of the Disney family as well as the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community in Florida and across the country,” Disney’s statement read. 

In response, DeSantis claimed he would not be “backing down” from a fight against “woke Disney”.

The primary move in this tit-for-tat war occurred in February when DeSantis dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the 56-year-old special tax district and self-governing status lobbied for by Walt Disney before the Florida park opened, giving them autonomy over every aspect of Disney World properties. The governor then appointed his own oversight board for the area that encompasses Disney’s 25,000-acre resort. 

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