Disney Cautions that a DeSantis Legal Victory Could Have Broader Repercussions on ‘Unpopular’ Opinions

by Ryan Lee
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DeSantis Disney Lawsuit

Should Florida Governor Ron DeSantis succeed in a federal case where Disney alleges infringement on its First Amendment rights by the Republican official, Disney will not be the sole organization to face punitive measures for espousing an “unpopular stance,” according to legal filings submitted by Disney on Monday.

Disney emphasized in its court submissions that the First Amendment ensures the freedom of speech, even when it contradicts the positions of the governing authorities. The company made these assertions in legal paperwork urging the judge to dismiss DeSantis’s effort to invalidate their First Amendment suit filed in Tallahassee.

According to the lawsuit by Disney, DeSantis unconstitutionally altered and assumed control of the governing body that oversees Walt Disney World. This move came as retaliation after the entertainment conglomerate publicly voiced its opposition to a state statute that bans education about sexual orientation and gender identity in early education. DeSantis, a proponent of this law, is also a current contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination for 2024.

Before the governance of the district was transferred to appointees designated by DeSantis earlier this year, the area had been under the supervision of individuals allied with Disney for its fifty-year history. During this time, the district was responsible for managing municipal services across Disney World’s 25,000-acre expanse, including but not limited to, road maintenance and waste management.

Disney articulated that the absence of a clear demarcation here would essentially mean there are no boundaries. “The State’s reprisal against Disney for transgressing the Governor’s established ‘line’ was immediate and harsh: the government summarily revoked Disney’s electoral privileges in the governing entity responsible for managing Disney’s privately-owned land,” the company stated on Monday.

Governor DeSantis, along with other defendants comprising a state agency and his own appointees serving on the board of the newly named Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, argue that the First Amendment suit is groundless and assert their legal immunity.

In parallel, Disney is contending with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in a state-level court in Orlando.

Before the transfer of district control from Disney sympathizers to appointees chosen by DeSantis, the pro-Disney board members had entered into agreements that returned oversight on design and development at Disney World to the corporation, while also forbidding the district from using Disney’s intellectual property without explicit consent. The new board members appointed by DeSantis contend that these last-minute arrangements have effectively nullified their authority, and as a result, the district has initiated legal proceedings to annul these contracts.

In response, Disney has lodged counterclaims, which involve petitions to the state court to recognize the agreements as legally binding and executable.

For more updates, follow journalist Mike Schneider on Platform X, previously known as Twitter, at @MikeSchneiderAP.

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