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Disney Warns of Punishing Businesses for ‘Disfavored Views’ in Lawsuit Against Florida's Ron DeSantis

Disney LGBTQ Pride Parade Free Speech
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Disney alleges a retaliatory takeover of its governing district following its opposition to Florida's “don’t say gay” law.


In a burgeoning legal battle, Disney is challenging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a federal lawsuit, accusing the Republican leader of infringing on its First Amendment rights.

According to the Associated Press, the entertainment behemoth argues that if DeSantis prevails in the lawsuit, it may set a precedent where entities could be penalized for voicing "disfavored viewpoints."

In court documents submitted on Monday, Disney implored a judge to not dismiss its First Amendment lawsuit lodged in Tallahassee.

The case stems from DeSantis’ alleged unconstitutional interference and takeover of Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek governing district. This action was purportedly in retaliation against Disney’s opposition to a state law that prohibited discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in early-grade classrooms—a law fervently supported by DeSantis and a policy extended through high school graduation.

DeSantis is currently running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Prior to the alleged takeover by DeSantis' appointees, the district, responsible for municipal services over Disney World’s expansive 25,000 acres, was under Disney supporters' control for over five decades. The governance change has curtailed Disney’s control over design, construction at Disney World, and the use of its intellectual property within the district.

Disney's legal documents highlighted that the state's retaliation was "swift and severe," immediately stripping Disney of its voting rights in the governing body overseeing Disney’s use of its private property. The tagline of Disney’s argument was: “If the line is not drawn here, there is no line at all."

On the flip side, DeSantis, along with other defendants, including a state agency and the DeSantis-appointed members of the newly named Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, deem the First Amendment lawsuit baseless, asserting their immunity from liability.

When Disney aspired to construct “The Most Magical Place On Earth” in the remote terrains of Orange County and Osceola County during the 1960s, a legislative pathway was forged to enable the company to govern (and tax) itself. The Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1967 to lure Disney to erect a theme park near Orlando by offering numerous incentives. This setup facilitated the financing and establishment of essential infrastructure for the theme parks, minimizing the burden on local taxes.

In practical terms, Disney was endowed with the authority to self-issue permits, bypassing potential bureaucratic hurdles for various concerns. Additionally, Disney enjoyed a unique tax district designation, a setup estimated by experts to have saved the company millions of dollars annually.

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