Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stands at a campaign event at the Los Angeles Harbor Grain Terminal on September 29, 2023 in Long Beach, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
A judge on Wednesday dismissed a federal lawsuit Disney filed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other defendants that alleged he retaliated against the company for publicly criticizing a controversial parental rights education law backed by the governor.
Judge Allen Winsor ruled that Disney lacked legal standing to sue DeSantis and the secretary of Florida’s Commerce Department.
Winsor also ruled that Disney’s claims “fail on the merits” against members of the board of a special improvement district in which the company operates its parks and resort.
Disney had effectively controlled the district’s board since 1967 until the Florida legislature last year significantly changed its structure and renamed it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The governor now picks board members, subject to confirmation by the state Senate.
Disney had accused the defendants of punishing the company with the changes to the board after the company denounced in 2022 legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. Now law, the legislation limits school classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.
DeSantis had touted the law, and his fight with Disney, during his unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination. And he had pushed for the changes in the decades-old structure of the district overseeing the area encompassing Walt Disney Resort.
DeSantis and the other defendants had asked the judge to toss out the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.
A Disney spokesperson told CNBC Wednesday, “This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here.”
The spokesperson also said that if the ruling were “left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with.”
“We are determined to press forward with our case.”
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