Although the inability to instruct students in kindergarten through third grade on sexual orientation or gender identity seems like a rather stupid hill to die on, the woke Walt Disney Co. has decided to go all in.
Following the Florida Legislature’s passage of the Parental Rights in Education bill — which critics disingenuously call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — Disney CEO Bob Chapek issued an apology to his employees for not being a “stronger ally” and said this legislation was “yet another challenge to basic human rights,” according to WKMG-TV in Orlando.
He also said the company would “pause” all political donations in the state.
After Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on Monday, Disney issued a statement that said the company’s goal was “for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts” and that it would help to make that happen.
Statement from The Walt Disney Company on signing of Florida legislation: pic.twitter.com/UVI7Ko3aKS
— Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) March 28, 2022
Republican state Rep. Spencer Roach responded to the statement with a tweet noting that legislators had held two meetings “to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government.”
“If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County,” Roach said.
Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government. If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County. pic.twitter.com/6sj29Gj6Wz
— SpencerRoach (@SpencerRoachFL) March 30, 2022
That legislation created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows Walt Disney World — which sits on land in both Orange and Osceola counties, and two different cities — to govern itself.
Forbes described what this designation means: “Rather than local governments, Disney is in control of everything from construction zoning, building codes and fire department services to controlling its own electricity, roads and water, meaning if the law is repealed, Disney will now have to get government approval for decisions about its operations — which might be harder or take longer to get.”
WKMG political analyst Jim Clark explained it as follows: “In effect, they’re their own city out there. They can zone the way they want. They can do things the way they want. They can even build a nuclear power plant if they want.”
So, obviously, Disney is very happy with its independent status and would like it to continue.
Speaking at a news conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on Thursday, DeSantis said that given Disney’s promise to fight the Parental Rights in Education law, state legislators might consider the repeal of Reedy Creek, WKMG reported.
“I would not say that that’d be retaliatory,” he told reporters. “I mean, the way I view it is, you know, there are certain entities that have exerted a lot of influence through corporate means to generate special privileges in the law. I don’t think we should have special privileges in the law at all.”
He then mentioned another “special favor” granted to Disney by the state Legislature last year.
The Social Media Platforms bill, which the governor signed on May 24, 2021, banned Big Tech companies from censorship by allowing individuals to sue them. Shortly before the bill was passed, a lawmaker added language that exempted operators of theme parks.
“At the 11th hour,” DeSantis said, “the Legislature slips in a provision to that law that said, if you operate a theme park, it doesn’t apply to you. And that was meant solely to protect Disney. And I opposed that when it happened.”
The governor continued, “I had to make a decision. Do I veto? Do I throw the baby out with the bathwater and veto the entire bill? … I didn’t think it was worth doing. But if you look at like a provision like that, repeal that, that shouldn’t be there anyways.”
He said it was “the one time [Disney] got something” during his time as governor.
“I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve got so far over their skis on this on this parental rights stuff, because I think they’re used to having their way and they’re not used to having people that will stand in their way and say, ‘Actually, the state of Florida is going to be governed by the best interest of the people in Florida,’” DeSantis said.
“You know, we’re certainly not going to bend a knee to woke executives in California. That is not the way the state’s going to be run,” he said.
To be sure, Florida has benefited enormously from Disney World’s presence, but that doesn’t mean its management team can start calling the shots in the state.
The company certainly doesn’t have the right to threaten the governor and Legislature. DeSantis is right on the money here. Why would Florida go above and beyond to give Disney an exemption to a law when it’s so clearly acting against the interests of the state’s children?
Disney is entrenched in Florida. Stripping the company of its “special privileges” would have a serious impact — and shareholders will not be too happy if the company’s anti-family activism starts to diminish their returns.