Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing the Republican in court documents of launching “a targeted campaign of government retaliation” against the entertainment giant.
The lawsuit alleges DeSantis, in response to Disney’s criticism of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, has engaged in a retaliatory effort it says “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
After first noting Disney’s “immeasurable impact” on Florida and its economy, the complaint accuses DeSantis of stifling constitutionally protected free speech and undertaking subsequent actions that are “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional.”
In February, DeSantis responded to Disney’s public opposition to the law, which forbids discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in some classrooms, by seizing control of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and appointing five hand-picked supervisors to the district’s governing board.
But Disney impeded the effort by stripping the board of its powers just before the new members took over. And in a hilarious twist, the terms of the new agreement last “until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England.”
The Republican responded by championing legislation to impose state oversight on Disney’s rides (a largely meaningless effort, as Disney’s safety standards already exceed the state’s), and also encouraging the board to assert its power over Disney.
He’s also suggested he could use his power to build a state prison on the land formerly controlled by the company.
Disney employs roughly 75,000 workers in the state and is Florida’s largest taxpayer.
“Disney finds itself in this regrettable position because it expressed a viewpoint the Governor and his allies did not like. Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way,” the lawsuit reads. “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. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind.”
DeSantis is expected to announce his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination next month.