Disney has filed a lawsuit against Florida governor Ron DeSantis for allegedly violating its First Amendment rights.

Over the last year, the beloved company and Republican governor have been at odds due to the latter’s horrific ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

Under the harmful legislation, teachers and schools are barred from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” across all grade levels “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

While Disney faced backlash for their initial response to the bill, the company went on to publicly slam the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation after DeSantis signed it into law in March 2022. 

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney said. 

“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organisations working to achieve that.”

After Disney publicly condemned the terrifying law, DeSantis accused them of “crossing the line.” 

The Republican governor and his conservative colleagues also stripped away Disney World’s self-governing privileges by dissolving the theme park’s Reedy Creek Improvement District and replacing it with his own board – the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. 

However, Disney thwarted DeSantis’ takeover in February by essentially stripping the new board members of power – via a last-minute 30-year development agreement. 

Under the deal, the entertainment company has retained its development rights and also has the final say for any changes the new board proposes. 

Disney also prevented the new board from using any of their characters until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England.”

Daniel Megarry

On 25 April, Central Florida Tourism Oversight District members voted to invalidate the agreement’s terms after their lawyers accused Disney of not giving all parties notice over its voting process (per NPR).

Shortly after the board voted to invalidate the agreement, Disney filed a 77-page lawsuit accusing the governor and his colleagues of violating their “protected speech.” 

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation – orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech – now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” the suit said. 

The company also accused DeSantis and his selected board of violating contract clauses in their aforementioned development agreement.

“At the Governor’s bidding, the State’s oversight board has purported to “void” publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs,” the company claimed. 

“This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional.” 

Towards the end of the lawsuit filing, Disney expressed their disappointment over the situation and it not being resolved in a “different way.” 

“Disney finds itself in this regrettable position because it expressed a viewpoint the Governor and his allies did not like. But Disney also knows that it is fortunate to have the resources to take a stand against the State’s retaliation – a stand smaller businesses and individuals might not be able to take when the State comes after them for expressing their own views,” the lawsuit said. 

“In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”