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Disney Shifts Gears In DeSantis Lawsuit Focusing On First Amendment Rights

The Walt Disney Company is shifting its focus on the violation of the First Amendment by the Florida governor.
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Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) Thursday amended its federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to include only its “First Amendment” claim.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis speaks at the Moms for Liberty Summit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2023. (HANNAH BEIER/GETTY IMAGES) 

Disney amended the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to drop the Contracts Clause, Takings Clause and Due Process Clause violations. The case will now focus on its free speech claims.

“Disney’s public statements on House Bill 1557 are fully protected by the First Amendment, which applies with particular force to political speech,” Disney’s lawyers said in the amendment filed with the court on Thursday.

The House Bill 1557 pertains to the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly called as “Don’t Say Gay Law,” which forbids discussion of sexual orientation in public schools.

Disney has requested the court to declare illegal the Florida House and Senate Bills that abolished the special taxing district privilege for the Reedy Creek district, which houses Disney’s Orlando theme park. The company sees these as retaliatory measures that impact its rights to free speech.

The lawsuit initially filed by Disney against the governor claimed that DeSantis’ handpicked oversight board illegally voided an agreement signed by the previous board on Feb. 8. The contract was signed a day before the state legislature passed the bill to transfer leadership from a pro-Disney board.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis speaks at the Moms for Liberty Summit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2023. (HANNAH BEIER/GETTY IMAGES) 

The move to drop the contract-based claims comes as there is another ongoing lawsuit in state court, where these are being actively litigated. The state court case was initiated by the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board appointed by DeSantis.

Friday, District Court Judge Allen Winsor denied Disney’s request for filing an amendment and asked the company to confer with the defendants before the filing. The amendment therefore suggests DeSantis agreed to drop the contract claims.

The lawsuit is a noise for the Mouse House at a time when its fundamental cup of woes overflows. The uncertain economic condition has impacted its theme park attendance, and it is facing a cutthroat competition in the streaming business even as its linear TV business is seeing structural challenges.

“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,” said in a statement about the lawsuit.

As the going got tougher, Disney brought in company veteran and former CEO Bob Iger to restructure operations and help with a turnaround.

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek was ousted after Disney failed to capitalize on its earnings



Produced in association with Benzinga

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