Judge throws out Disney’s lawsuit claiming DeSantis retaliated against Hollywood giant for criticizing his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

  • The Trump-appointed judge sided with DeSantis in Disney’s lawsuit on Wednesday
  • Agreed that Disney had no standing to challenge the law that eliminated its special tax district
  • DeSantis went to war with Disney after the company criticized the “Don’t Say Gay” law

A federal judge has dismissed Disney’s lawsuit accusing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of retaliating against the company for criticizing the state’s limits on classroom discussions of sexuality.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, a Trump appointee, issued the ruling Wednesday in Tallahassee federal court, finding that Disney lacked the standing to sue DeSantis and other state officials.

The dispute began after Disney last year criticized Florida’s ban on gender and sexuality in the classroom, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by opponents.

DeSantis and his allies responded by stripping Disney of its special control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which had given the company virtual autonomy around its theme parks, including the Walt Disney World Resort.

DeSantis and other defendants had urged Judge Winsor to dismiss the case, saying Disney could not sue them under constitutionally established state laws, such as the one revoking Reedy Creek’s special status.

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed Walt Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and members of a state board alleging retaliation against the company.

In his ruling, Windsor agreed with their argument that if a law is constitutional on its face, a plaintiff cannot challenge it by claiming that lawmakers deviously crafted it with the intent to suppress free speech.

Disney vowed to continue with the lawsuit despite the ruling.

“This is an important case with serious consequences for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” a Disney spokesperson said.

“If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give states the freedom to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political views with which they disagree. We are determined to continue with our case.

DeSantis began making repeated attacks on what he called “Wake Disney” during public appearances as he geared up for his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, an effort he abandoned earlier this month.

State lawmakers stripped Disney of control of the special development district that had given the company control of the area around Disney World since 1967.

The newly formed DeSantis-appointed district, known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, then nullified contracts that Disney had pushed through just before the previous board was replaced.

Disney responded by suing the governor and board members for allegedly punishing the company for its political comments.

The new board fired back by asking a state court judge to declare previous agreements, which were favorable to Disney and limited board action for decades, inappropriate and null and void. That case is still pending.

Disney allegedly gave the previous board and its employees millions of dollars in tickets, hotel stays and other benefits that were “akin to bribes from government officials,” according to a report released by the new board in early December.

More to follow