DeSantis asks judge to dismiss Disney lawsuit, claims immunity

(ABC News) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday asked a federal court to dismiss The Walt Disney Co.’s lawsuit against him, which claims illegal retaliation over a political dispute.

In the motion, obtained by ABC News, DeSantis’ attorneys argue that he and the secretary of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity are “immune” from the suit. (Disney is ABC News’ parent company.)

“Neither the Governor nor the Secretary enforce any of the laws at issue, so Disney lacks standing to sue them,” DeSantis’ lawyers write.

They add that DeSantis “is entitled to legislative immunity, which shields ‘both governors’ and legislators’ actions in the proposal, formulation, and passage of legislation.'”

DeSantis himself has contended the suit is without merit.

“I think it’s political,” he said in April.

In April, Disney sued DeSantis and other Florida officials over a campaign that the company alleged was “patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional.”

Disney accused Florida of launching “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Gov. DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — [which] now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

DeSantis and Disney have been at odds since 2022, after the company publicly criticized the Parental Rights in Education Law, which restricts content concerning sexual orientation and gender identity in some K-12 classrooms.

Critics labeled the law “Don’t Say Gay,” but supporters of the law say it allows parents to decide what their children can learn about certain subjects.

Disney’s suit states that after the LGBTQ-related law and subsequent controversy, DeSantis moved to take control over the special tax district around Disney parks in the Orlando area, which has allowed the company to essentially self-govern its operations there.

The Florida Legislature voted to dissolve the former board over the district and create a DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District in its place.

ABC News’ Mark Osborne and Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.