The Walt Disney Co. has appealed a federal judge’s decision this week to dismiss its lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and others over what it saw as retaliation for the company’s opposition to a governor-backed education law.
The notice of appeal, filed Thursday, followed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor on Wednesday that the company’s free-speech suit against DeSantis lacked merit and standing.
Disney had vowed to push forward with its case against the governor, which it brought when the state disbanded the special district that oversaw much of the Central Florida land on which Walt Disney World sits. The company argued that the state did so after Disney criticized the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly known as the Don’t Say Gay bill, which restricts class discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Winsor, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee, ruled that while Disney did appear to be harmed by the changes, it could not prove it was a direct result of any actions by the state or governor.
In a statement Wednesday, Disney said the ruling “set a dangerous precedent” that would “give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with.”
At a news conference Thursday in Tallahassee, DeSantis said he was “shocked” that Disney planned to appeal the ruling.
“We knew that the Legislature had authority to do it, I had the authority to sign the legislation as we did, and I would like to see an accounting from some of the people who last year were trying to say that somehow Disney had outmaneuvered Florida, or that somehow they were in the right on all this,” he said. “You heard a lot of squawking when they were able to use it to try to attack Florida or try to attack me. I don’t hear very much now that the case was summarily dismissed. I mean, they don’t have a case.”
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