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Disney Becomes Battleground in Debate Over LGBTQ Instruction

The war of words between Republicans and the Walt Disney Company escalates as HB 1557 is signed by Florida Governor DeSantis.
Disney Becomes Battleground in Debate Over LGBTQ Instruction

Crossing A Line

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill that bans LGBTQ instruction in primary schools. Critics of the legislation have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and its passage by the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month was met with a cascade of protests across the state.

After the governor signed the bill into law, the Walt Disney Company issued a statement vowing to help repeal the controversial legislation.

Walt Disney Company Statement: Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.
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At a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, DeSantis lashed out at the company and its “California corporate executives” saying, "I think they crossed a line. We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.”

"Disney’s public opposition to the law follows an employee walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek's mishandling of the bill," according to Ethan Shanfield in Variety.

Disney Vows to Help Repeal Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill: ‘It Should Never Have Passed’ (Ethan Shanfield - Variety)

Excerpt from Variety: Chapek drew backlash for Disney’s quiet response to the bill as it made its way through the Florida legislature, as well as a report that the company has given money to the bill’s sponsors. When Chapek did issue a public statement, which claimed the “biggest impact” Disney can make “in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content” it produces, he sparked outrage for taking a soft stance. 

David Kihara writes in Politico that "DeSantis has been openly feuding with Disney and CEO Bob Chapek since the Florida Legislature approved the law."

DeSantis says Disney ‘crossed the line’ in calling for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ repeal (David Kihara - Politico)

Excerpt from Politico: State Representative Joe Harding, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored the measure, said in a statement that he’s returning all political contributions he received from Disney and its affiliates. “I’m disappointed to see Disney speak out against this legislation, which is now Florida law,” Harding said. “As a company whose primary audiences are young children and families, Disney has let us down through their complicity with the false narratives pushed by liberal media.”
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What's in a Name?

In response to the "Don't Say Gay" moniker given to the law by critics, supporters of the legislation have referred to the teaching of LGBTQ in primary school as akin to grooming. "Proponents of restrictions on how U.S. public schools address sexual orientation and gender identity say their ultimate goal is to allow parents more involvement in their children’s education and ensure classroom materials are age-appropriate," write Kimberlee Kruesi and Karena Phan for AP.

‘Grooming’: The ubiquitous buzzword in LGBTQ school debate (Kimberlee Kruesi and Karena Phan - Associated Press)

Excerpt from AP: In heated debates at school board meetings and in statehouses across the country, the argument they repeatedly put forth is that they are trying to prevent children from being “groomed” — the same term commonly used to describe how sex offenders initiate contact with their victims. The use of such rhetoric, opponents of the new laws argue, underscores a nationwide push by conservatives to make education a political wedge issue by equating certain teaching materials and educators with pornography and even pedophilia. This latest trend is another volley in the country’s ongoing culture wars.