Walt Disney Company Drops Almost All Claims In DeSantis Lawsuit, Zeroes In On Free Speech

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The Walt Disney Company has dropped almost all of its claims against Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in an amended lawsuit filed Thursday, the latest chapter in the year-long feud between the two parties.

On Sept. 1, Disney asked federal court officials to narrow the scope of its free speech lawsuit against DeSantis, withdrawing four of its five claims against the Florida governor and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), CNBC reported. Disney explained it was amending its lawsuit “because the validity of Disney’s contract-based claims is being actively litigated in the pending state court action,” Fox Business reported.

“This federal case will therefore address only the current Fifth Cause of Action, not at issue in the state court case: Disney’s First Amendment challenge to the retaliatory reconstitution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” Disney attorneys argued, according to the outlet.

Disney’s beef with DeSantis began after the governor signed the state’s “Parents Rights in Education” bill into law in March 2022. Dubbing the bill, “Don’t Say Gay,” Disney publicly criticized the legislation, stating it “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” Disney further vowed to see the bill repealed or struck down in the courts.

The following month, DeSantis signed a bill stripping Disney of its Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), a special tax district that gave the company the same power and authority as a county government. In the 189-page bill, the RCID was replaced with the CFTOD, a governor-appointed oversight committee approved by the Florida Senate that would tend to the district’s financial responsibilities. In addition, each of the representatives for the newly appointed CFTOD was not permitted to have had a previous relationship with Disney for the past three years.

Disney argued the move was done in retaliation for its stance on the parental rights bill and that it constituted an attack on the company’s First Amendment rights. “Disney faces concrete, imminent, and ongoing injury as a result of CFTOD’s new powers and composition, which are being used to punish Disney for expressing a political view,” Disney argued, according to CBS News. (RELATED: Disney Sues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis)

The lawsuit, Disney argues, is a challenge to the “unconstitutional weaponization of government by seeking a declaratory judgment that will allow Disney to pursue its future in Florida free from the ongoing retaliatory actions of the CFTOD Board,” the outlet reported.

DeSantis has argued Disney should not be treated any differently than any other theme park in Florida.

“Your competitors all do very well — here at Universal, SeaWorld, they have not had the same special privileges as you have,” the governor said, according to Fox Business. “So, all we want to do is treat everybody the same and let’s move forward. I’m totally fine with that. But I’m not fine with giving extraordinary privileges to one special company at the exclusion of everybody else,” he continued.