The board of supervisors appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to oversee Walt Disney World’s operations has voted to sue Disney in response to the company’s recent federal lawsuit alleging a campaign of political retaliation by the governor. The panel, which had replaced a Disney-backed board weeks earlier, voted unanimously to authorize a lawsuit in state court.
Disney had sued DeSantis last week and the oversight panel in U.S. district court in Tallahassee, Florida. The company asked to effectively restore its control over the special tax district that has allowed it to self-govern its Orlando-area parks’ operations since the 1960s.
The Political Fight
The litigation escalated a fight that began more than a year earlier, when the entertainment giant criticized a Florida bill limiting talk of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The bill, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents, was passed by the state’s GOP-held legislature and signed by DeSantis in March 2022. Within weeks, the governor and his allies started targeting Disney’s special governance district, which at the time was called the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Disney filed its lawsuit on the same day that the governor’s board members voted to undo a development deal that the company struck right before the DeSantis choices took over — essentially throttling the new board’s power. A Disney spokesman declined to comment on the board’s vote. But Disney’s civil complaint alleged that the state’s actions amount to “as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see.” The company noted the state’s issues with the district only began after the fight over the classroom bill.
The fight against Disney has recently begun to generate criticism from some of DeSantis’ fellow Republicans.
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