Column: Disney’s lawsuit will show what DeSantis’ war on LGBTQ+ allies is really about

Ron DeSantis in front of two American flags
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is performing for a national audience these days.
(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images)

While the lawsuit brought by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Inc. against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his handpicked oversight board came as a surprise to many, the defendants apparently saw it coming. Back in March, that board — the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District supervisors — reportedly lawyered up.

Then in a shareholders meeting this month, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger reiterated that “the company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.” A point, mind you, that Republicans applauded back in 2010 after the disastrous Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that gave us increased spending in politics and “corporations are people too.”

Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

Now Disney has filed a lawsuit staking a claim for its rights, and we’re about to learn a lot about DeSantis.


Whether he directs the state to settle this case before it escalates further will tell us just how much DeSantis is willing to step on the backs of Floridians in his attempt to reach the White House.

That’s what this Disney thing is all about.

Not the “don’t say gay” bill that led Disney to speak out against the governor last year. It’s not about parental rights or drag queens reading at libraries. This is about DeSantis trying to become the Brutus to Donald Trump’s Julius Caesar. If DeSantis does announce a 2024 bid, his war with “The Magic Kingdom of Woke Corporatism” (his words, not mine) is going to be part of his campaign. Are Floridians OK with that? After all, they’re going to foot the bill for it.

“That’s going to cost us money,” Martin Garcia of the oversight board said recently of squabbling with Disney. “We’re going to have to raise taxes to pay for that.”

All because Disney said it disagreed with the state’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law? No. That’s DeSantis’ contention, but the timeline tells a different story.

It wasn’t that long ago when DeSantis was reaching out to Florida’s LGBTQ+ community — being a governor for all Floridians.

In June 2019, DeSantis and his wife appeared at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2016 shooting rampage there. They were approached by a state representative who expressed disappointment that the DeSantises’ proclamation about “Pulse Remembrance Day” hadn’t specifically mentioned the queer or Hispanic communities. And you know what the governor did? He corrected the omission, later tweeting: “today Casey DeSantis and I joined the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities in Orlando to pay our respects as our state and nation mourn and honor the precious lives that were lost.”


In 2018, during a Republican primary forum as he sought the governorship, DeSantis was asked about transgender people and the restroom debate in many states, and he said: “Getting into the bathroom wars, I don’t think that’s a good use of our time.


What changed? His ambitions. And they changed on Sept. 20, 2019.

That’s when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated impeachment proceedings against Trump, and suddenly DeSantis saw a path to the White House opening ahead of him. The governor we see today is a product of that new ambition. So is his war on LGBTQ+ people and his fixation with Disney as their defender.

I wonder whether Floridians, who reelected DeSantis less than a year ago, are hungry for tax dollars to be spent fighting the biggest single-site employer in the country. (Incidentally, the parent company of Walt Disney Resorts is also the parent of ABC, where I am a contributor and podcast host.)

Floridians might be especially wary of financing this because their governor is apparently auditioning for his next job — in Washington. That’s the real head-scratcher in all of this.

Whether DeSantis decides to run for the White House in 2024 or not, he’s not eligible to run for a third consecutive term as governor. That means he won’t have to immediately answer to voters for the ramifications of his fight with Mickey Mouse.

“If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” DeSantis wrote in a fundraising email.


He can’t run for governor anytime soon, so what is his fundraising for, I wonder? We know what it’s not for: legal fees in the Disney lawsuit. That bill will land on the taxpayers of Florida.