The battle over the district that governs Walt Disney World in Florida has intensified, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ board appointees seeking communications between Disney and local media. This move is part of a broader state court dispute over the control of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Focus on the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law
The district’s request centers on obtaining documents related to Disney’s position on Florida’s controversial law, often referred to by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. This law bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and has been a source of contention between Disney and the DeSantis administration. The district is particularly interested in all Disney communications concerning DeSantis and laws passed by the Florida Legislature that altered the district’s control structure.
A Shift in Power
For over five decades, the district was under the control of Disney allies. However, this changed earlier this year when DeSantis appointees took over, following Disney’s public opposition to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. The change in control led to a legal tussle, with the district suing Disney over contracts and agreements made before the state takeover. These agreements, according to the DeSantis appointees, significantly limited their powers.
Legal Battles on Multiple Fronts
Disney has responded with counterclaims in state court, seeking to affirm the validity of the agreements made with the previous district board. Concurrently, Disney is engaged in a federal court battle against DeSantis, alleging that the governor’s actions infringed upon its First Amendment rights. This lawsuit stems from Disney’s opposition to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which the company argues led to punitive measures from the state. A hearing on this matter is scheduled for the coming month in Tallahassee.
The Road Ahead
As the conflict continues, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District plans to take depositions from Disney attorneys, planners, and lobbyists, delving into the selection of the old district board’s supervisors and the land transactions that occurred. This legal dispute not only highlights the tensions between Disney and the Florida government but also reflects the broader political and cultural divides surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and corporate speech in the state.