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By The Way
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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ron DeSantis, who denounced Disney, actually got married there

The Florida governor passed a law in April to revoke Disney’s special taxing status

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is accompanied by his wife, Casey DeSantis, at a debate in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Oct. 24. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been on the offense against the Walt Disney Co. for months, criticizing the entertainment giant for opposing legislation he championed and signing a law to strip the company of its special taxing district.

Before he attacked the company, DeSantis — who is up for reelection next week — was a groom walking down the aisle in a Disney wedding. He and his wife, Jill Casey Black, a former anchor at Jacksonville news station WJXT who goes by Casey, wed at Walt Disney World on Sept. 26, 2009.

How Florida’s war with Disney could change the park experience

Neither the governor’s office nor his campaign responded to questions about the wedding. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

Insider first reported the wedding location on Friday, based on accounts from three unnamed people; the publication said 150 people attended. The New York Times reported early last month that the couple’s marriage license listed the location as Lake Buena Vista, a Central Florida city controlled by Disney. The Washington Post has also obtained the marriage license.

Bruce Hamilton, a longtime anchor at WJXT, told The Washington Post on Friday that he was at the 2009 Disney wedding. Another station employee, wedding guest and former co-worker of the bride confirmed the Disney location in an email to The Post.

Hamilton said the ceremony, at the wedding chapel of the Victorian-style Grand Floridian Resort, was “very elegant.”

DeSantis, who served in the U.S. Navy as a military lawyer, was in his official white uniform decorated with medals. Photos of the smiling couple on social media match decor from the chapel at the time.

“I don’t think there was any Mickey presence at all,” Hamilton said.

After the ceremony, guests moved to the World Showcase at Epcot overlooking the signature Spaceship Earth ball, where Hamilton said one of the station’s meteorologists warned about the perils of the outdoor gathering. It rained, Hamilton said.

Insider reported that Italy Isola at Epcot, described by Disney as a “private island terrace,” was the location of the reception.

How DeSantis used Disney’s missteps to wage war on corporate America

Though DeSantis hasn’t commented on reports about his wedding, he’s had plenty of barbs to throw at Disney in recent months. He attacked the company after CEO Bob Chapek came out against a law that bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools, dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by critics. The governor is widely seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

The fight escalated through April, when the governor signed a bill stripping Disney of its special taxing status. The structure allowed the company to develop the Central Florida land into the world’s top theme park destination.

Part of the resort’s business: “Fairy Tale” weddings that promise a “magical” celebration and “memories to cherish forever.”

Tens of thousands of Disney fans have tied the knot at the company’s theme parks, hotels or cruise ships over the past 30 years. According to a Washington Post story in 2017, Disney has hosted more than 30,000 weddings since September 1991.

According to the company, the wedding pavilion at the Grand Floridian is “easily our most popular wedding venue.” The event minimum cost for the pavilion runs between $12,500 and $35,000; the Italy Isola minimum ranges from $10,000 to $17,000.

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