Narrowed Disney First Amendment lawsuit against Ron DeSantis moves forward

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Walt Disney World entrance in 2010. photo By Jrobertiko (Denis Adriana Macias) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

After U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor found a procedural problem with an earlier attempt, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts on Thursday filed a narrowed lawsuit that alleges the company’s First Amendment rights were violated by the state for voicing opposition to a 2022 law.

The law restricted instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Disney attorneys filed a motion last week seeking approval to amend a lawsuit filed this spring against defendants including Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But Winsor denied the motion because the company did not follow a procedural rule that required it to first confer with attorneys from the state.

Disney moved forward with the amended lawsuit Thursday, and Winsor ordered the defendants to respond by Sept. 21, according to a court docket.

The lawsuit came after DeSantis and Republican lawmakers this year approved a bill that replaced the longstanding Reedy Creek Improvement District with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Disney was closely aligned with the Reedy Creek district, while the bill gave DeSantis power to appoint members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board.

Disney alleges that the change was retaliatory in violation of the First Amendment and should be blocked.

The federal lawsuit had included issues stemming from development agreements reached by Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District board.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board and the Legislature took steps to void the agreements.

But the amended lawsuit drops allegations related to the development agreements and focuses on the retaliation issue.

At least in part, that is because Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District also are battling about the development agreements in a case filed by the district in Orange County circuit court.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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