Disney asks judge to dismiss lawsuit from DeSantis appointees

Disney and DeSantis were involved in a year-long feud that the governor touted during his 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

ORLANDO, Florida. On Friday, Disney is asking a Florida judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the company’s efforts to neutralize Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointees’ takeover of the Disney World district.

The one-hour hearing in Orlando state court concerns one of two takeover cases between Disney and DeSantis or his designated governors in response to the company’s public opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. defended by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers.

Disney and DeSantis were embroiled in a year-long feud that the governor touted during his 2024 Republican presidential nomination, often blaming the entertainment giant for being too “awake.” Disney accused the governor of violating his free speech rights.

Disney argues before District Judge Margaret Schreiber that any decision in state court will be moot because the Republican-controlled legislature has already passed legislation nullifying the agreements. If the judge decides not to dismiss the state’s case, the entertainment giant is asking for a stay in state court until the federal lawsuit in Tallahassee is resolved because they relate to the same ground, and that lawsuit was filed first.

In this case, Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees in the District of Central Florida Tourism Supervision in an attempt to stop the takeover, alleging that the governor was violating the company’s freedom of speech and “using government power to punish private business.”

DeSantis-appointed county councilors ask that their case not be dismissed, telling the district judge that it is not contentious and that it would be inappropriate to postpone it. DeSantis is not a party to the state’s lawsuit.

“Disney’s motion is a classic fantasy suggesting that the court be led to believe that reality is what Disney is making up,” the county council’s attorneys said in a court document.

The fight between DeSantis and Disney began last year after the company, facing significant internal and external pressure, publicly opposed a state law banning sexual orientation and gender identity classes in elementary grades. Critics call this rule “Don’t say gay.”

As punishment, DeSantis seized the county through a law passed by Florida legislators and appointed a new board of supervisors to oversee the municipal services of the sprawling theme parks and hotels. But prior to the arrival of the new board, the company made agreements with previous members of the board of supervisors who were supporters of Disney that stripped the new executives of their design and construction authority.

In response, DeSantis and Florida legislators passed legislation repealing these agreements.

Disney announced in May that it was abandoning plans to build a new campus in central Florida and move 2,000 employees from Southern California to work in digital, finance and product development. Disney planned to build a campus about 20 miles from the giant Walt Disney World theme park resort.

In an interview this week with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company doesn’t want to get involved in any culture wars.

“Our goal is to continue to tell great stories and make a positive impact on the world,” Iger said.

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