Disney is seeking to narrow its federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to focus solely on a free speech claim. The company alleges that DeSantis retaliated against them due to their public opposition to a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades.
In a recent court filing, Disney requested permission to file an amended complaint that would solely address the First Amendment claim. They are leaving questions about the legality of agreements signed with Disney World's governing district to be resolved in a separate state-court lawsuit. These agreements shifted control of design and construction at the theme park resort from DeSantis appointees to Disney.
Disney argues that they are facing ongoing injury as a result of the new powers and composition of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), which they claim is being used to punish them for expressing a political view. They seek a declaratory judgment that will allow them to pursue their future in Florida without retaliatory actions from the CFTOD Board.
However, U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor rejected Disney's motion to narrow the scope of the lawsuit, citing a procedural rule that requires the company to confer with DeSantis' attorneys before filing such a request. The judge suggested that Disney could refile their request after complying with the court rule.
It is worth noting that the fate of the federal lawsuit and a separate state case have become intertwined. Disney filed a counter-claim in the state case asserting many of the same claims made in the federal case after their request to dismiss the lawsuit was denied.
The dispute between DeSantis and Disney began when the company publicly opposed a state law banning classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. In response, DeSantis took over the district and appointed a new board of supervisors. However, the new supervisors' authority was limited by the company's agreements with their predecessors. In turn, DeSantis and Florida lawmakers passed legislation repealing those agreements.
The outcome of this lawsuit will have implications for both Disney and the state of Florida, as it raises important questions about free speech and the relationship between corporations and government entities.