By ANTHONY IZAGUIRRE
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday over the Republican takeover of the theme park district, alleging the governor launched a “targeted campaign of retaliation governments” after the company opposed a law critics call “Don’t say gay.”
The lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee minutes after a Disney World oversight board DeSantis appointee voted to void an agreement that gave the company authority over design and construction decisions at its sprawling properties near Orlando.
“Disney is sorry it has come to this,” the case said. “But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company has no choice but to bring this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a policy. viewpoint unpopular with certain state officials.
The legal filing is the last salvo in a feud of more than a year between Disney and DeSantis that has embroiled the governor in criticism as he prepares to launch an expected presidential bid in the coming months.
DeSantis, who has cast himself as a Republican firebrand capable of deftly implementing his conservative agenda without drama, has plunged headlong into the fray with the beloved company and top booster of tourism, while business leaders and rivals of the White House criticize his position as a rejection of the principles of small government conservatism.
“We are not aware of any legal rights that a business has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges that other businesses in the state do not have,” DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said. “This lawsuit is another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”
The fight started last year after Disney, under significant pressurepublicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in the early grades, a policy critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
As punishment, DeSantis took over the Disney World Autonomous District and appointed a new board of supervisors that would oversee municipal services at the sprawling theme parks. But before the new board came in, the company pushed through a last-minute deal that stripped the new supervisors of much of their authority.
DeSantis’ board said Wednesday that Disney’s move to retain control of its property was effectively illegal and was done without proper public notice.
“Disney picked the fight with this board. We weren’t looking for a fight,” Martin Garcia, president of the Central Florida Tourism Supervisory District, said before the vote, adding that “in short, what our lawyers have told us is in fact and legally what they created is a lawful absolute. disorder. It will not work.”
DeSantis also promised additional payback, with proposals to improve state oversight of the complex’s amusement rides and monorail, as well as a suggestion to build a nearby prison.
Disney has said that all agreements made with the previous board were legal and approved in a public forum. Disney CEO Bob Iger has also said that any action against the company that threatens jobs or expansion at its Florida resort is not just “anti-business” but “anti-Florida.”
Disney’s lawsuit asks a federal judge to overturn the governor’s takeover of the theme park district, as well as DeSantis’ oversight board’s actions, arguing they were violations of freedom rights expression of the company.
“A targeted campaign of government retaliation, orchestrated at every turn 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,” says the lawsuit.