US District Judge Allen Winsor, an appointee of Former President Donald Trump, has ruled that the lawsuit by the Walt Disney Corporation against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of the Republican Party cannot move forward. He granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, and explained his decision in a 17-page-long opinion.
Disney sued Governor DeSantis for allegedly misusing his power as the head of the state’s executive power to silence their freedom of expression in April 2023.
The case’s origins come from the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act,
passed by the Republican-controlled Florida state legislature and signed into law by Governor DeSantis in March 2022. The bill restricts the teaching of modern gender theory and the promotion of gender reassignment procedures in public elementary schools.
Many in the left-leaning mainstream media have pejoratively dubbed the bill ‘Don’t Say Gay Law’. One of the critics of the law was Disney CEO Bob Iger. In response, Florida Republicans voted to strip the Disney Corporation of its special privileges in the Reedy Creek Improvement District, where the world-famous theme park Disney World is located. What’s more, a newly appointed oversight board voided the contracts pushed through at the last minute by the outgoing board members that would reatain Disney’s special authority over construction and public design matters in the district—this is when the entertainment giant decided to file its lawsuit.
In the meantime, CEO Bob Iger had stepped down. However, he was recalled to his position in November 2022, after a major decrease in the company’s stock price under new CEO Bob Chapek.
The lawsuit has come to a grinding halt with the motion to dismiss recently granted by Judge Winsor.
In his ruling, the judge explains that the law stripping Disney of its special status was constitutional, and thus Disney does not have legal standing to speculate about the potential motives behind the decision. The judge argues the judicial branch does not have the authority to rule on the motives of the legislature, only the constitutionality of the law. As he put it:
‘In short, Disney lacks standing to sue the Governor or the Secretary, and its claims against the CFTOD Defendants fail on the merits because “when a statute is facially constitutional, a plaintiff cannot bring a free-speech challenge by claiming that the lawmakers who passed it acted with a constitutionally impermissible purpose.”’
However, despite the ruling, a spokesperson for Disney said that company is planning to ‘press forward with this case’. This most likely means that they are trying to appeal the decision and take the case before the US Supreme Court.
Florida Law Inspired by Hungarian Child Protection Law?
When you were reading the description of the Florida Parental Rights law written above, you were most likely reminded of Hungary’s Child Protection Act, which was passed in the summer of 2021 and caused an international uproar. The similarities may not be a coincidence.
In April 2022, American columnist and contributor to our site Rod Dreher spoke at an event hosted by the Danube Institute, in which he told this to the audience:
‘About the “Don’t Say Gay law”, it was in fact modelled in part on what Hungary did last summer. I was told this by a conservative reporter who…said he talked to the press secretary of Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and she said, “Oh yeah, we were watching the Hungarians, so yay Hungary”.’
He later went as far as calling Governor Ron DeSantis ‘pure Orbán’ in an interview with Dave Rubin in June 2023.