Federal Judge tosses Disney lawsuit against DeSantis

A federal judge dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Florida governor Ron DeSantis and members of a state tourism board for alleged “government retaliation,” after the company publicly excoriated DeSantis’s Parental Rights in Education Act — dubbed by its opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

DeSantis and other defendants had urged U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor — a Trump-nominated judge in Tallahassee — to dismiss the case because Disney could not sue the government over constitutionally enacted state laws.

“Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary,” the judge said in his ruling, according to a court filing. Winsor also determined that the company’s claims against the Central Florida Tourism Oversight district failed. “When a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose.”

A Disney spokesman told the New York Post: “This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here . . . If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”

DeSantis and Disney have been mutual antagonizers for the past few years. In his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, which he ended in early January, DeSantis regularly attacked “woke Disney” and the brand’s role in promoting sexualized material for children’s consumption.

Their dispute began after Disney criticized the Parental Rights in Education Act, which banned the discussion of various sexual matters in public school classrooms below the fourth grade. The bill went into effect in the summer of 2022.

In February 2023, DeSantis signed a bill that placed Disney’s special tax district under state control, forcing the company to comply with state regulations in the district where it had operated with near-autonomy for decades. The Republican-backed bill rebranded Disney’s self-governed Reedy Creek Improvement District as the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.”

Additionally, DeSantis appointed the members of a five-person oversight board for the special district — a power that Disney once held.

“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said at the bill-signing ceremony in 2023. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”

Disney claimed the district takeover by DeSantis and the state was an illegal form of retaliation in their suit. Judge Winsor tossed out Disney’s allegations of retaliation.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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