Federal judge dismisses Disney's free speech lawsuit against DeSantis; second lawsuit still pending


ORLANDO, Fla. — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed Disney’s free speech lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, leaving the company’s remaining hopes of regaining control of the district that governs Walt Disney World to a separate state court challenge.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor in Tallahassee said in his decision that Disney lacked standing in its First Amendment lawsuit against the Republican governor, the secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and DeSantis’ appointees to the Disney World governing district. The separate lawsuit is still pending in state court in Orlando.

Disney had argued that legislation signed by DeSantis and passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature that transferred control of the Disney World governing district from Disney supporters to DeSantis appointees was in retaliation for the company publicly opposing the state’s so-called don’t say gay law. That 2022 law banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades.

Disney supporters had run the district, which provides municipal services such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, for more than five decades after the Legislature created it in 1967.

Winsor, who was appointed to the bench by President Donald Trump in 2019, said in his decision that when a law on its face is constitutional, plaintiffs can’t make free-speech claims challenging it because they believe lawmakers acted with unconstitutional motives.

“Because that is what Disney seeks here, its claim fails as a matter of law,” Winsor wrote.

Disney didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment or say publicly whether it would appeal the ruling.

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Follow Mike Schneider on X: @MikeSchneiderAP.



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