Disney filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, claiming that his administration's takeover of the area that houses its theme parks is part of “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” in response to Disney's resistance to a rule that forbids discussing homosexuality in schools.
The action is the latest volley in a battle that has become more acrimonious between the entertainment behemoth and DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate for 2024 who has called Disney a “woke” corporate in an effort to win over his right-wing fans.
DeSantis and other officials from the Republican governor's administration are named in the complaint, which was submitted to a federal court in Florida.
“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 statement claims.
Disney offended the governor last year by criticizing a rule that forbade teachings in schools about gender identity and sexual orientation.
under initially remaining silent on the subject, Disney finally made a commitment to assist in the repeal of the so-called “Don't Say Gay” regulation, which proponents claim stigmatizes LGBTQ kids, under pressure from its creative workers.
DeSantis took over the self-governing area of Walt Disney World in February and has publicly discussed raising taxes on the firm, enforcing harsh safety checks, or even constructing a jail close to the theme park.
A DeSantis-appointed panel voted on Wednesday to revoke agreements that gave Disney real autonomy over its enormous complex near Orlando. This complex employs 75,000 people and draws 50 million visitors annually, many of whom are from outside the United States, contributing billions of dollars to the state's economy.
Later, the business responded.
There is no space for debate about what took place in this case: Disney voiced its position over state law and was subsequently penalized by the State as a result, according to the submission.
The company is requesting that the court nullify DeSantis's legal actions and rule that they are illegal and unenforceable.
Disney said that because of its size and resources, it was able to take such action while acknowledging that many smaller businesses would be unable to counter an organized governmental effort.
However, it presented itself as standing up for basic rights.
“In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind,” the complaint said.
In opposition to Florida
This month, Disney CEO Bob Iger warned shareholders that DeSantis' actions “seem really wrong.”
“A company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” he said.
Disney has revealed plans to spend more than $17 billion in Disney World over the next ten years. The company estimates that this move would generate more than 10,000 new employment and bring even more tourists to Florida.
Iger stated that any action that thwarts such initiatives just as payback for a stance the corporation made “sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida.”
With $1.1 billion in state and local taxes paid in the previous year, Disney claims to be one of the state's greatest employees and one of the region's major donors to the government coffers.
The largest theme park in the world, Walt Disney World, has been run by the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District since it first opened in the 1970s. This authority is independent of the state and local counties and enjoys a high degree of local management autonomy, which exempts it from most state regulations.
DeSantis has established himself as the top contender among Republicans to succeed Donald Trump as the party's nominee for president in 2024.
A favorite of the populist right, the 44-year-old has spent most of his time as governor criticizing Democrats for their liberalism and “wokeness.” He has not yet declared his candidacy for president.
DeSantis is firmly on the right flank of his party due to his support for policies like allowing Floridians to carry concealed guns without a license or training.