By MIKE SCHNEIDER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Days after Disney sued Florida’s governor in federal court for what it described as retaliation for opposing the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, members of Disney World’s governing board — made up of Gov. Ron DeSantis appointees — authorized a lawsuit Monday against the entertainment giant.
Members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District voted unanimously to sue Disney in state court in the Orlando area, as well as defend itself in federal court in Tallahassee where the entertainment company filed its lawsuit last Wednesday.
The Disney lawsuit against the governor, the board and its five members asks a judge to void the governor’s takeover of the theme park district previously controlled by Disney for 55 years.
“We will seek justice in our own backyard,” said Martin Garcia, chair of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
An email seeking comment was sent Monday morning to Disney officials.
Disney filed its lawsuit last week after the oversight board appointed by DeSantis voted to void a deal that gave the company authority over design and construction decisions in its sprawling properties near Orlando.
Disney’s lawsuit was the latest salvo in a more than year-old feud between Disney and DeSantis that has engulfed the governor in criticism as he prepares to launch an expected presidential bid in the coming months.
DeSantis, who has framed himself as a Republican firebrand able to deftly implement his conservative agenda without drama, has dived headlong into the fray with the beloved company and major tourism driver, as business leaders and White House rivals bash his stance as a rejection of the small-government tenets of conservatism.
The fight began last year after Disney, in the face of significant pressure, publicly opposed a state law that bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, a policy critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
As punishment, DeSantis took over Disney World’s self-governing district and appointed a new board of supervisors that would oversee municipal services in the sprawling theme parks. But before the new board came in, the company pushed though an 11th-hour agreement that stripped the new supervisors of much of their authority.
Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP.