A hearing date in which a judge will listen to arguments as to why Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board should be dismissed has been set. Judge Allen Winsor, a United States District Judge from the Northern District of Florida, has set a December 12, 2023 date for the hearing.
December Hearing Date Set For Disney v. DeSantis
The hearing comes after DeSantis and CFTOD filed to dismiss the federal lawsuit in late September. The governor initially filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in June, but had to re-file after Disney updated their lawsuit and changed some of their claims to be part of a countersuit at the state level.
Disney originally filed to sue DeSantis and the CFTOD Board, citing “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The CFTOD Board pushed back against this notion in their September motion to dismiss, stating “Disney does not have a First Amendment right to its preferred governance structure for the district in which it is located.” They say the First Amendment “does not constrain Florida’s decision to reconstitute state entities that exercise sovereign power.”
The CFTOD Board also cited Gregory v. Ashcroft in its September motion, writing “Through the structure of its government, and the character of those who exercise government authority, a State defines itself as a sovereign.” They state this case “is a frontal assault on this bedrock principle of our constitutional order.”
Disney vs. DeSantis & CFTOD
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company initially clashed over the corporation’s opposition to a much-debated and controversial Florida law regarding classroom instruction and discussion on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, alongside various other recent state laws and proposals in a similar vein.
Now-former CEO Bob Chapek initially remained silent and passive on the issue — until massive internal criticisms from Cast Members, the LGBTQ+ community, and controversy over Disney making hefty political contributions to campaigns and individuals allegedly against their own stated human principles came into focus. Former and future CEO Bob Iger also condemned the law.
After Chapek finally denounced the law, Governor DeSantis moved forward with various verbal and legal assaults on Disney, including the attempted dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Ultimately, the District was renamed and DeSantis appointed his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors.
DeSantis is attacking what he calls “woke politics” allegedly invading the state — frequently stating his intention to put the people of Florida first through his actions and via the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District:
Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long. It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.
After the CFTOD Board attempted to declare Disney’s final agreements with RCID null and void, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against the Board and DeSantis, calling their actions a violation of their constitutional rights.
In the lawsuit, Disney cites “A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
Disney regrets that it has come to this. But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
The Board then filed a state lawsuit against Disney. The company is now countersuing on the state level, arguing that because RCID was never actually dissolved, the CFOTD is essentially the same entity and is returning to its word.
DeSantis said that the state of Florida had “won the battle” against Disney in a mid-November interview.