Ron DeSantis: Tallahassee, Florida – On Wednesday, Disney dismissed the recent request to be exempt from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s legal dispute, criticizing the governor and presidential candidate for trying to avoid ‘responsibility’ for their actions.
This latest development comes in the ongoing legal battle that began last April when the theme park giant filed a lawsuit against the governor in the U.S. District Court for Northern Florida. The extensive battle started a year ago when Disney spoke out against the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, which was deemed controversial by critics as it restricts directions on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
The company’s lawyers wrote, “The governor wants to escape the responsibility of enforcing, administering, and enforcing the state’s laws as an official, which can’t be excused, penalizing residents for political statements that violate state-prescribed speech codes.” This was stated in a legal filing on Wednesday.
In response to Disney’s actions, DeSantis and his GOP legislative allies replied, countering the allegations that it was retaliatory and a breach of their free speech rights, such as the governor’s takeover of the company’s special taxing district, previously known as the Ready Creek Improvement District.
Since changing its name to Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the impact of this takeover is still uncertain, even outside the courts.
On Wednesday, the newly appointed board, beleaguered with the Disney dispute and other startup expenses, is considering slashing $8 million used to pay the out-of-duty law enforcement officers monitoring Disney properties. Chairman Martin Garcia called it “wasteful spending.”
The board’s name was also mentioned in the recent filing with the state court, in which it filed its own lawsuit against Disney.
Disney Lawsuit Continues for a Year
Since the presentation of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year, the law has sparked national controversy, leading to over 150 major companies signing a human rights campaign letter denouncing the LGBTQ+ law.
Walt Disney Company also followed suit and publicly opposed the law after it was passed by its employees. Former Entertainment Giant Chief Bob Chapek stated that the company was stifling political contributions in Florida and working to overturn the law.
In an email response to fundraising allegations, DeSantis said, “If Disney wants a fight, they picked the wrong guy.”
Beyond accusations of violating the First Amendment, Disney claims that the counter-protesters breached their contract and violated the Constitution by seizing its property without just compensation. Disney alleged that the opponents acted without “legitimate state interests,” thus violating the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Desantis’s lawyers call all this “meritless.”
Desantis’s attorneys contend that the measure was not taken in retribution in the most recent filing, which asks the court to dismiss the case or at the very least the charges made against the governor. Instead, they say it concerned “overreaching” reform in a special taxing district, which gave the company an “unprecedented power to govern itself.”
They called the case an “eleventh-hour power grab” – and asserted that the governor is immune from such retaliation.
But Disney disputes this.
“This case presents a fundamental question of whether the governor and the state can escape accountability for an open disregard for our nation’s most prized freedom,” the plaintiff’s attorneys stated in their brief. “The plan demands rejection on the grounds of Paragraph III’s supremacy, sovereign immunity, and legislative immunity, but these principles are not applicable in this case.