The Walt Disney Company is taking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to court, accusing him of retaliating against the company for its criticism of a controversial state law.
Disney is suing DeSantis and other state officials, alleging that the governor's actions have amounted to an unconstitutional attack on the company's business operations and its right to free speech.
The lawsuit comes after the board that DeSantis appointed to oversee Disney voted Wednesday to void development contracts that Disney had entered into, claiming that Disney had done so without the board’s approval.
Disney said in its complaint that the action from the board was the “latest strike” leading to the lawsuit.
The conflict between Disney and DeSantis began in February when the governor signed legislation to end Disney’s power over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, an area that Disney has owned and self-governed for decades. Disney then expressed its opposition to a new law, called the Parental Rights in Education law, or the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, which places restrictions on the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms.
In response, DeSantis began to criticize Disney, calling it an “unaccountable Corporate Kingdom” that had “extraordinary special privileges.” Disney then said it would work to repeal the law and vowed to “stand up for the rights and safety” for the LGBTQ community.
Now, Disney is accusing DeSantis of retaliating against the company for its criticism of the law. The company said in its complaint that it has “exhausted efforts” to find a resolution to the conflict.
Taryn Fenske, the communications director for DeSantis, told The Hill in a statement that the lawsuit is “another unfortunate attempt” by Disney to try to “undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
The lawsuit asks for the legislation exerting the state government’s power over Disney to be nullified because it was enacted in retaliation for the company exercising its right to free speech.
The case will now be heard in the federal court system, where a judge will have to decide whether Disney’s constitutional rights have been violated. The outcome of the case could have far-reaching implications for the state of Florida.