A federal judge in Florida has dismissed Disney’s lawsuit alleging that legislators and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis illegally punished the company for speaking out against the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Disney’s suit, filed last April, had contended that the push to replace the governmental district covering Walt Disney World – which had been the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District – with a new entity appointed by DeSantis was a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” to deprive Disney of its rights under the the First Amendment by punishing its political stance.
Judge Allen Winsor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee disagreed, calling the law creating the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) “facially constitutional” in his dismissal ruling on Wednesday. Therefore, Disney cannot bring a no free speech challenge against the law, no matter what legislative history may say about its motivation.
Winsor also said that while “Disney faces the brunt of the harm” from the law creating the CFTOD, it also affects the small landowners in the district and the law did not explicitly mention Disney. “A law either explicitly singles out a specific group or it does not, and the laws here do not,” the judge wrote.
In a statement to multiple media outlets, Disney said, “This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here. If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”
DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said after the ruling, “The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone. Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government.”
A separate suit over the district in a Florida state court is still pending.