It appears the battle between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is far from over. Disney remained eerily quiet as DeSantis worked to strip the company of its long-held power over its own tax district, but it has now been revealed that it had its own plans in the works to strike back.
Disney and DeSantis have been feuding since the entertainment company spoke out against the governor’s anti-LGBTQ+ Don’t Say Gay law, which bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in lower grades and restricts them in higher grades, using language that LGBTQ+ activists say effectively ban mentioning LGBTQ people in the classroom.
After that, DeSantis not only continuously criticized the company in public, but he also oversaw the Florida legislature’s revocation of Disney’s decades-old special zoning agreement to punish them.
Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1968 and granted Disney World the power to tax itself to pay for water, power, roads, and fire services on the 25,000-acre property near Orlando. Abolishing it significantly reduced Disney’s autonomy. Many Floridians are worried that the move will create a massive tax burden for the local governments that will take its place.
DeSantis signed the bill abolishing the district in February and declared that “the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end.”
The bill also allows him to create a five-member board (appointed by him) to oversee government services in Disney’s district.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” DeSantis continued, “and accountability will be the order of the day.”
But Disney didn’t take this lying down.
Members of DeSantis’s new board began their tenure by discovering that the previous board snuck in a last-minute development agreement with Disney that allows the company to maintain much of its autonomy and renders the new board pretty much powerless.
Under the agreement, Disney can reportedly build whatever it wants on the property as well as grant others developmental rights. It also bans the board from using Disney’s name or characters. It then invokes a royal clause stating that the agreement is valid until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England,” essentially meaning it never expires.
At the first meeting of the new board, DeSantis appointee Brian Aungst said they would ” have to deal with it and correct it,” according to NPR.
Aungst then claimed, “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
Disney, however, released a statement declaring that not only was the agreement accomplished legitimately, but it was also done so publicly.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.”
According to a tweet from Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, an unnamed staffer on Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign mocked DeSantis for Disney’s move, saying, “President Trump wrote ‘Art of the Deal’ and brokered Middle East peace. Ron DeSantis just got out-negotiated by Mickey Mouse.”
Of course, many also then mocked this statement for claiming Trump brokered Middle East peace, and others pointed out he used a ghost writer for Art of the Deal.
Earlier this month, Disney also announced it will host a massive LGBTQ_ rights conference in September, which seemed like another intentional rebuke of DeSantis.
DeSantis opposes LGBTQ+ rights on several levels.
In addition to signing the Don’t Say Gay law and retaliating against those who speak out against it, DeSantis has repeatedly spoken out against “transgenderism” and “woke gender ideology.” He opposed the Respect for Marriage Act and signed a law that allows parents to sue if any public school or college allows transgender females to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.
In 2021, DeSantis vetoed his state’s budgetary funding for LGBTQ+ programs, including mental health support for survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, housing for homeless queer youth, and funding for Orlando’s LGBTQ+ Community Center.
This article appears courtesy of our media partner LGBTQ Nation.