Disney and Ron DeSantis Settle a Two-Year Legal Battle Over Florida’s Controversial Law

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Apr 01, 2024

A two-year legal battle ends as Disney and the state of Florida find a middle ground to end their battle over Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The entertainment company and the DeSantis-approved board of the company’s special tax district made the settlement agreement.

It has been a long road for Disney to reach this agreement. What exactly did the company agree to? Let’s get into it.

The Beginning of This Two-Year-Long Battle

In March 2022, DeSantis introduced Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, labeled by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which created state standards about gender identity and sexual orientation in elementary classrooms (kindergarten through grade 3) or among specific students who were “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

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A woman with long brown hair holding a protest sign at a night protest

Source: Ted Eytan

Disney joined the backlash against law after facing criticism from its employees and the LGBTQ+ community for not opposing the bill.

Disney Responses to DeSantis’s Law

Then Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that Disney would sign the Human Rights Campaign’s statement opposing laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, Disney donated $5 million to organizations fighting those laws, which it later withdrew after the Human Rights Campaign said it would refuse money from Disney.

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Bob Chapek standing in front of the design for Star Wars land at Walt Disney World

Source: Walt Disney Television/Flickr

In response to the entertainment company’s opposition, DeSantis told a group of supporters in a video, “You have companies like Disney that are going to say and criticize parents’ rights, they’re going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms,” (via USA Today).

DeSantis Makes Disney His Number One Target

After DeSantis signed the controversial bill into law, Disney tweeted that it would work to get the law repealed. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”

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Ron DeSantis in a black suit and red tie standing on a stage addressing a crowd through a microphone

Source: Wikimedia Commons

DeSantis spoke out against Disney, saying, “I think they crossed the line. We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.”

The Fight Over Reedy Creek

The Florida governor said he and other lawmakers would revoke a special tax district called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows Disney World resort to operate as its own county government.

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A sign for the Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek

Source: HowderFamily/Flickr

DeSantis signed the bill into law and warned Disney of the consequences to come if it didn’t end its diversity and inclusion program.

Power Over the Reedy Creek Board

The governor planned to create a board that would strip Disney of its control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, but Disney pulled a fast one and reached a last-minute agreement with the previous board to allow the company to maintain its power.

White Wooden Table With Chairs Set

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Of course, DeSantis retaliated with a new law that limited Disney’s power, and Disney sued DeSantis for “unconstitutional” and “retaliatory” acts.

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DeSantis Tries to Limit Disney’s Power in Florida

Days later, DeSantis announced that he was retaliating against the entertainment giant in his 77-page lawsuit, which said Disney is pursuing a political agenda and that “no corporation is above the law.”

Ron DeSantis standing on stage behind a podium talking to a crowd

Source: Wikimedia Commons

All the bills and lawsuits, one after another, seem to have resulted from DeSantis’s attempt to limit Disney’s power in Florida.

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Disney and the State of Florida Have Reached an Agreement

DeSantis and Disney reached an agreement after months of negotiation. The agreement acknowledges that plans created by the previous board are not valid.

Two businessmen are shaking hands over a table

Source: Freepik

Disney agreed to temporarily halt its appeal of a court ruling while negotiating a new growth plan with tax district officials. The entertainment giant also ended its legal battle with the tax district in state court as both parties aimed to move forward cooperatively.

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Disney Seems Happy About the Agreement

“This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the state,” Vahle said in a statement (LGBTQ Nation).

A close up of the statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand with the Sleeping Beauty castle in the background

Source: Joe Penniston/Flickr

DeSantis said he is “glad” the agreement was made and believes his actions have been “vindicated.”

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DeSantis on the Agreement 

“A year ago people were trying to act like all these legal maneuvers were all going to succeed, and the reality is here we are a year later, not one of them has succeeded,” DeSantis said (via the New York Times).

Ron DeSantis in a black suit and red tie standing on a stage addressing a crowd

Source: Ron DeSantis

DeSantis continued: “Every action that we’ve taken has been upheld in full, and the state is better off for it.”

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Is DeSantis Losing Steam?

David Jolly, a former Florida congressman believes that this agreement is a consequence of DeSantis losing his gusto after dropping out of the 2024 presidential race.

Desperate evicted male entrepreneur standing near window

Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexes

“It made sense for his politics,” Jolly told Reuters. “It never made sense for Florida’s economy or for the long-term interests of the state.”

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What’s Next?

While the legal battle between Disney and DeSantis might be on pause for now as the company and board work together on a new development plan, it seems that the end of DeSantis’s campaigns of retaliation against Disney is near.

A diverse group of people sitting at a brown wooden table with their laptops open

Source: Fauxels/Pexels

“The question now is whether Disney and the board can reach agreements that are effective and workable on many issues going forward, and the devil will be in the details that are not yet clear,” Carl W. Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told the New York Times.

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