News (USA)

Disney sues Ron DeSantis for “retaliation” after the company’s “Don’t Say Gay” opposition

Entrance of Disney World near Orlando Photo: Shutterstock

Disney has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” in response to the company criticizing his infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law.

On Wednesday, the five-member board that DeSantis appointed to oversee government services in Disney’s special administrative district voted to dissolve a years-old development agreement that allowed Disney to self-govern its 25,000-acre Disney World resort and theme park complex.

“Within minutes” of the board’s vote, Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, his board, and other state government officials in federal court, The New York Times reported.

Disney’s lawsuit accuses DeSantis and state officials of a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint.” The Republican-led effort, the lawsuit alleges, “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

In its lawsuit, Disney said its had “exhausted efforts to seek a resolution” with Florida Republicans, leaving Disney “no choice but to file this lawsuit.” The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the Republicans’ actions against Disney and also legal costs connected to the suit. The case has been assigned to Judge Mark Walker, an appointee of former President Barack Obama (D).

For decades, Florida allowed Disney to control its own fire, police, and waste management forces as well as the energy generation, road maintenance, bond issuance, and development planning within its special district. Disney’s district — located in both Orange and Osceola Counties — was an exchange for the massive tourism dollars that Disney’s resorts brought into the state.

After Disney spoke out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and pledged to work for its repeal, DeSantis said, “I think they crossed the line… We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.” Soon after, he told conservative commentator Dave Rubin, “I thought it was a mistake for Disney to get involved and I told them, ‘You shouldn’t get involved, it’s not going to work out well for you.”

He then continuously and publicly criticized the company, calling it an “unaccountable Corporate Kingdom” that had “extraordinary special privileges.”

In February, DeSantis signed a bill abolishing Disney’s self-governance over its district. However, his board appointees quickly learned that the previous board snuck in a last-minute development agreement with Disney, allowing it to maintain much of its autonomy, rendering the new board rather powerless for decades.

In response, DeSantis threatened to build a prison next to Disney and called for state oversight of Disney World’s rides. He also threatened to tax Disney’s hotels and impose tolls on roads that lead into the entertainment company’s theme parks.

His revenge quest has caused him to be ridiculed by a local paper for declaring “thermonuclear war on a cartoon mouse.” He has also been mocked by Saturday Night Live for having married his wife at Disney World in 2009.

Local attorney Jacob Schumer told WFTV that he expects Disney will win its court case against DeSantis because the governor’s and legislature’s actions represent a clear-cut instance of retaliation, violating Disney’s constitutionally protected free speech rights.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Transphobes freak out as trans woman comes in 6160th place in London Marathon

Previous article

By the numbers (part 1): A new survey examines the financial health of LGBTQ+ people

Next article