The Mouse That Roared: Disney Vows to Fight to Overturn Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

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By Giselle Balido

March 31, 2022

As GOP House members lash out at the entertainment giant, Gov. Ron DeSantis warns: “We will not be bending knees to any woke corporation.”

The Walt Disney Co. and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are locking horns over HB 1557, officially titled Parental Rights in Education, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents.

Along with the state’s Republican governor, GOP House members have taken issue with the entertainment giant’s opposition of the bill that takes effect July 1 and will ban classroom discussion of issues relating to sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. It also bans these topics for older students, if the issues discussed are considered not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate. The bill also allows parents to sue school districts over alleged violations.

Opponents of the bill call it a hateful attack on the state’s young LGBTQ population, which already faces greater risk of self-harm and suicide.

“My biggest fear is that these kids will not feel safe in the classroom. We have to protect them from a mental health standpoint and understand that not everyone comes from a supportive, loving environment,” said Heather Wilkie, the executive director of the Zebra Coalition, an organization in Central Florida providing mental health counseling and housing services to LGBTQ youth.

The GOP Lashes Back

After workers staged walkouts in protest of the bill, Disney tweeted that the measure “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” In response, DeSantis told reporters the company had crossed a line: “This state is governed by the interests of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state.”

In retaliation, GOP lawmakers held meetings to dismantle the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was Created in 1967 to encourage Disney to come to Florida and allows the company to act as its own government. It even has its own building codes and taxing authority. 

For its part, Disney is stopping its political giving in Florida, which runs into the tens of millions, and promises to work to repeal the law or get it overturned in the courts.

A Colossal Battle

Walt Disney World in Florida is the largest single-site employer in the country, employing more than 77,000 Floridians. It is also a major driver of tourism revenue for the state, with sales tax on Disney theme park tickets generating $409 million for the state in 2018 alone.

How will the company’s stance affect its future in Florida? In the past, Disney has been granted concessions from the Florida Legislature. In 2021, for example, lawmakers imposed a crackdown on social media companies’ censorship of users. But it was amended to exempt streaming services, such as Disney Plus, when owned by a theme park. Disney is also among the companies who have gotten millions in corporate tax refunds from the state government.

For his part, DeSantis said, “We will not be bending knees to any woke corporation.”

https://theamericanonews.com/floricua/newsletter/

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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