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Disney backs down in DeSantis lawsuit

 September 8, 2023

The Walt Disney Corporation has decided to pivot its federal lawsuit against Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, now centering its claims solely on potential First Amendment rights infringements.

On Friday, Disney sought judicial approval to revise its complaint to exclusively address free speech contentions, subsequently receiving the green light to do so, as the Daily Mail reported.

The claim suggests that Disney faced backlash due to its opposition to the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill promoted by DeSantis.

Contractual Agreements Shift to Florida Court

Several elements of the lawsuit related to contractual agreements have been excluded from the federal case. These components will now be examined in a concurrent case at the state level in Florida.

A Disney representative emphasized the importance of these contracts, highlighting that they have a significant bearing on the company's potential future investments and job creation in the state.

Following Disney's criticism of a DeSantis-supported law, the governor publicly criticized the company and its chairman, Bob Iger, terming them as "woke."

DeSantis then moved to challenge Disney's historically tax-exempt district, renaming it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and installing a board of directors he appointed.

However, before the new board took control, Disney secured contracts for future investments, which the new board discarded, leading to a federal lawsuit.

A Duel of Legal Motions

The DeSantis-appointed board didn't hesitate in responding t0 the move, countersuing Disney at the state level.

With the now-adjusted federal lawsuit, the focus has shifted to determining whether DeSantis took action against Disney due to its vocal opposition to legislation restricting gender discussions in public schools.

Disney stated in its federal court motion that the new powers and makeup of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) have subjected them to "concrete, imminent, and ongoing injury."

The company asserts that the revised setup is a retaliatory measure designed to penalize it for a political stance. Disney claims that its objective is to secure a declaratory judgment that safeguards its future undertakings in Florida from further retaliatory actions by the CFTOD Board.

In response to these developments, Alexei Woltornist, a spokesperson for the new district, expressed satisfaction at Disney's adjustment of its legal claims. Woltornist conveyed the district's belief that such matters should be settled at the state level, hoping for a swift resolution for the people of Florida.

The Backdrop of Feud

Previously, DeSantis had urged Iger to abandon the lawsuit, suggesting that Disney was in the wrong for intervening in state governmental affairs.

DeSantis, emphasizing Florida's thriving economy and favorable business environment, indicated his preference for a level playing field for all businesses rather than providing preferential treatment to one particular entity.

In a CNBC interview, DeSantis suggested that he and all those involved on his side of the issue have essentially put the Disney dispute behind them.

Whether that proves true, however, is something that remains to be seen as litigation continues to work its way through the courts.