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Judge dismisses Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies

<i>Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images</i><br/>
Matt McClain/The Washington Post/Getty Images

By Samantha Delouya, CNN

(CNN) — A US judge has dismissed Disney’s lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his political allies, including the board he appointed to oversee Disney’s property in Florida.

The judge’s ruling is a win for the governor’s escalating legal battle with the entertainment giant.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in April, accused DeSantis of weaponizing his political power to punish the company for exercising its right to free speech.

However, on Wednesday, a federal judge in Florida ruled that Disney lacked standing to sue DeSantis and that the company’s claims against the governor’s oversight board fail on merit.

The judge determined that Disney had not “alleged any specific actions the new board took (or will take) because of the Governor’s alleged control.”

In a statement to CNN, a Disney spokesperson said the company was not deterred by the ruling and planned to “press forward” with its case.

“This is an important case with serious implications for the rule of law, and it will not end here,” the spokesperson said. “If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with. We are determined to press forward with our case.”

The now-dismissed lawsuit, filed by Disney after DeSantis signed a bill that gave him new power over the 47-square-mile district that contains Walt Disney World Resort, was just one jab in the ongoing legal and political fight between Disney and DeSantis.

Disney previously held municipal control over the area surrounding its theme parks, but lost it after DeSantis’ bill was passed, establishing the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which is now overseen by five people hand-picked by the governor.

The board has threatened to hike taxes, raise utility rates and develop the land around the entertainment giant’s Central Florida theme parks.

The conflict between Disney and Florida’s Republican governor began nearly two years ago after Disney spoke out against a bill championed by DeSantis that banned certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms. Disney’s then-CEO, Bob Chapek, called the bill, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a “challenge to basic human rights.

In the April lawsuit, Disney accused DeSantis and the oversight board of punishing the company for speaking out against DeSantis’ bill.

In a statement to CNN, DeSantis’ press secretary Jeremy Redfern, said the governor’s office was not surprised by the dismissal of Disney’s lawsuit.

“The days of Disney controlling its own government and being placed above the law are long gone,” Redfern said. “The federal court’s decision made it clear that Governor DeSantis was correct: Disney is still just one of many corporations in the state, and they do not have a right to their own special government. In short — as long predicted, case dismissed.”

The judge’s dismissal did not end the legal disputes between DeSantis and Disney, though: Disney can appeal today’s dismissal, and in May, the DeSantis-backed oversight board sued Disney in state court.

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– CNN’s Steven Contorno contributed to reporting.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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