Disney on Thursday sought to revive its legal battle against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a day after a judge dismissed the case, the latest salvo in the politically charged legal battle that erupted after Disney announced in 2022 its opposition to a controversial Florida law that regulates teaching of sexual orientation in schools.
Disney has alleged DeSantis infringed on the company’s First Amendment rights by appointing his own handpicked members to the board of a Disney World special district—seen by the company as retaliation against Disney’s opposition to the “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
But a federal judge dismissed the case Wednesday, ruling that Disney didn’t have standing to sue DeSantis, and because the statute appointing the board members was constitutional, the company couldn’t claim its rights were infringed “by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose.”
Thursday’s appeal was no surprise—the company had suggested in a statement following the ruling that it was “determined to press forward with our case,” claiming the ruling “if left unchallenged” would “give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with.”
Forbes has contacted DeSantis’ office for comment.
“They should move on,” DeSantis said during a Thursday news conference regarding a potential appeal, according to the Associated Press.
Walt Disney World’s special governing district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, became the target of legislation after Disney publicly opposed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law amid pressure from employees and the public. The law, which broadly bars teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, has sparked backlash from critics who say it will hurt the LGBTQ community. After Disney’s opposition, DeSantis hit back, saying the company “crossed the line.” Florida lawmakers initially sought to dissolve the special district completely, but ultimately agreed to overhaul it, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board with DeSantis replacing the former Disney-run board with his own appointees. Among other things, Disney is asking the court to restore the original board. But U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, a Trump appointee, found that Disney lacked both standing and merit in its case.
What To Watch For
There’s another battle between Disney and DeSantis brewing in state court. DeSantis and the board allege that Disney signed an agreement with the previous board that diminished the board’s power. DeSantis and the board are asking the court to void that agreement, and the next hearing in that case is set for March.