Disney Company Wins Lawsuit Involving Florida’s So-Called “Don’t Say Gay” Law

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The escalating feud continues between Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company, but Disney has just won a lawsuit involving the Florida law that set the entire feud into motion.

Disney Vs. Ron DeSantis Not What It Seems, Report Says - Inside the Magic

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The battle between Disney and Florida’s governor and legislature was originally ignited in early 2022. The Florida legislature proposed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, which sought to give parents more control over their public school-aged children in kindergarten through third grade by taking three key steps to do so.

“This bill is about protecting our kids, empowering parents, and ensuring they have the information they need to do their God-given job of raising their child,” said Representative Joe Harding.

The bill was designed to prohibit classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms in Florida for kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, and third graders, though teachers were not prohibited from answering questions from students about these topics. It would only affect parents of school-aged children in Florida’s public schools and was, in every way, an education bill. But before it passed, it quickly became the focal point of controversy as opponents to the piece of education legislation began referring to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, despite the fact that no verbiage in the entire multi-page bill included the phrase “Don’t say gay.”

Teachers speak out as Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill heads to DeSantis'  desk - Good Morning America

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Shortly before Gov. DeSantis signed the bill into law, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek began to get pressure from several to take a public stand against the bill. Chapek declined to issue a statement at first, but he ultimately caved to that pressure, by his own admission, making a statement on behalf of The Walt Disney Company, condemning the piece of legislation and the legislature that stood behind it. In late March 2022, however, DeSantis signed the bill into law, and Disney immediately fired back with a statement, once again condemning the law and vowing to stand in solidarity with those who sought to see the law repealed.

What has transpired since that time has fueled the continuing battle between Disney and Gov. Ron DeSantis. And while there have been no real developments in the situation thus far, Disney won a lawsuit this week that centered around Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law filed by Disney shareholder Kenneth Simeone.

Bob Chapek Ron DeSantis

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In his complaint, filed in Delaware’s Court of Chancery in December of 2022, Simeone accused The Walt Disney Company of allowing personal views to affect the company’s decisions in a negligent way. In short, Simeone believed that personal agendas within the Disney Company led to financial repercussions felt by shareholders.

“The financial repercussions from Disney’s actions, and resulting harm to the company and its stockholders, have been swift and severe,” Simeone said at the time.

But on Tuesday, Delaware Judge Lori Will said Disney was not negligent when the company condemned the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida. Judge Will’s ruling means that the company is not subject to turning over its internal records–records that include years of emails between board members, which were sought by Simeone’s suit, according to Reuters. Simeone reportedly wanted Disney’s records so that any wrongdoing by Disney leadership in connection with its criticism of Florida’s education law could be investigated.

Kent County Contact Information - Court of Chancery - Delaware Courts -  State of Delaware

Delaware’s Court of Chancery/Credit: Delaware Courts

Judge Will did, however, say that Disney’s decision to criticize the Florida legislation may ultimately have been a bad decision on the part of the company, the trial evidence had proven that Disney’s directors did not allow their personal views to dictate the company’s response to House Bill 1557. Further, the judge said that Simeone could not use a piece of Delaware’s law that was meant to allow for the investigation of boardroom misconduct to “search for hypothetical conflicts” in the suit against Disney.

“The plaintiff’s counsel and the Thomas More Society are entitled to their beliefs,” Judge Will wrote. But she further said that the corporate records lawsuit “is not a vehicle to advance [those beliefs].”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!