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Disney Updates Lawsuit Against DeSantis Adding Recent Developments

Orlando - Tuesday May 9, 2023: Disney on Monday amended its free speech lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis to add recent developments in the tit-for-tat fight between the entertainment giant and the Florida governor.

Among the new developments is the Florida Legislature's passage last week of a bill that rescinds agreements that the Disney appointed oversight board made just before the Governor's board members took over Disney's previously self-governing district.

The amended lawsuit also includes a new measure, also passed passed last week by the Legislature, that gives the state authority to inspect Disney World's monorail system, which previously had been conducted in-house.

Disney's revised lawsuit notes that it the only company impacted by the new bills. The suit states that the measures are “precision-engineered to target Disney alone, just as Governor DeSantis intended and previewed."

The entertainment giant's initial lawsuit against DeSantis was filed in Federal Court almost two weeks ago in an effort to maintain its control of construction and design projects at Disney World. One week ago the DeSantis appointed board responded by suing Disney in State Court claiming the agreements between the company and the previous board “reek of a backroom deal.”

Disney is asking a federal judge to void the governor’s takeover of the theme park district they used to control, and to vacate all of the DeSantis appointed board's actions, on the grounds that they are violations of the company’s free speech rights.

Disney and DeSantis have been engaged in a tug-of-war for more than a year publicly opposed a state law that bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, a policy critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

As punishment, DeSantis took over Disney World’s self-governing district through legislation passed by Florida lawmakers and appointed a new board of supervisors that would oversee municipal services for the sprawling theme parks and hotels. But before the new board came in, the company made agreements with members of the previous oversight board that stripped the new supervisors of their authority when it comes to design and construction.

The creation of Disney's self-governing district by the Florida Legislature was instrumental in the company’s decision in the 1960s to build near Orlando. The company had told the state at the time that it planned to build a futuristic city that would include a transit system and urban planning innovations, so the company needed autonomy in building and deciding how to use the land. The futuristic city never materialized and instead morphed into a second theme park that opened in 1982.