Florida Residents Sue DeSantis Over The Disney “Don’t Say Gay” Debacle

Three Florida residents have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming that in signing a law removing Disney’s self-governing status, he violated the rights of taxpayers. News of the lawsuit was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Following Disney’s criticism of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill’s passage, DeSantis and Florida Republicans moved to strip Disney of its longstanding privileges in Florida. But while the move was positioned as Disney being punished by killing its special district, it would in fact cause a massive tax bill for neighboring regions in Florida.

That’s precisely the issue raised by the residents suing DeSantis, who say these pending legal decisions will lead to increased taxes for the residents of Central Florida to pay off Disney’s debt, which is estimated to be valued at $1-$2 billion . Florida’s special districts haven’t been dissolved as of yet, but they will be in June 2023 if a new deal is not reached to renew them.

“Stripping Disney of this special district designation will move these major regulatory burdens unto the county, thereby increasing the Plaintiff’s taxes, and will cause significant injury to plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads. It also claims that the Florida government’s actions threaten to cost the state “thousands of jobs” by violating Disney’s constitutional rights to protected speech.

The litigation is the latest development in the state in the many much-publicized battle around the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Disney was initially silent on the legislation, but following criticism of CEO Bob Chapek, he and the company eventually spoke out against it. This followed a tumultuous period internally, as many Disney workers walked out in protest over the company’s soft stance on the issue. Hulu, Disney+, FX, ESPN, and Walt Disney World have since released statements that denounce the bill. After Disney and Chapek spoke out to say they would work to get the law repealed, DeSantis and Republicans took aim at the company and its special distract status.

Disney has not yet made a public statement about DeSantis’ alleged retaliation and this latest suit.

Image credit: Getty/Roberto Machado Noa

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