Disney has filed a lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, accusing him of orchestrating a targeted campaign of government retaliation. The entertainment giant alleges that the campaign violates its constitutional rights and jeopardizes its economic future in the region. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, in Tallahassee, the state capital.
The text of the lawsuit argues that, for over half a century, Disney has played a significant role in Florida’s economy by establishing Central Florida as one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The company, which is the nation’s largest employer in one location with nearly 70,000 workers in Orlando, has earmarked more than $17 billion in spending at the resort over the next decade. This growth would create approximately 13,000 jobs.
In February, the Florida Congress approved a law promoted by DeSantis for the state to take over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which had been operating autonomously for over half a century. The special district was left in the hands of a board of five supervisors handpicked by DeSantis himself, who clashed with Disney over a controversial state law on identity and gender in schools colloquially known as “Don’t Say Gay.”
Disney signed perpetual agreements with the previous state supervisors just before losing self-governance in its parks in Florida. This practically left the new board appointed by DeSantis without action. The governor responded, saying that the Congress of Florida has the authority to revoke agreements and that a bill is being worked on to nullify last-minute agreements between Disney and the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The confrontation between Disney and DeSantis escalated after the Congress of Florida approved a law that deprived Disney parks in Orlando of self-government. This law was passed after the group took issue with another Florida law also promoted by DeSantis that prohibits talking about gender identity in schools.
The lawsuit by Disney comes as CEO Robert A. Iger notes that future investment at Disney World could be at risk if the governor continues to use the company as a “political punching bag.” Democrat Anna V. Eskamani, who represents the city of Orlando in The Florida Congress, has voiced her support for Disney, stating, “I wish Disney luck in its litigation and I ask the governor to drop it.”