Florida to remove Disney special status over ‘don’t say gay’ feud

Many believe that the new bill comes as a response to Disney's opposition to the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.

Photograph of the castle at Disney World Florida.
Image: Craig Adderley - Via Pexels

The Florida Senate has passed a bill to repeal the zoning of state land, meaning that Disney could lose its designation as a self-governing entity.

The move is seen to be a direct response to Disney’s opposition to the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill or the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill as it has come to be known which was passed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis back in March.

Since then, Disney has come under close scrutiny after it emerged that at least three entities within the corporation had funded Republican Party members during their 2022 re-election campaigns. This led to LGBTQ+ staff from Disney staging a walkout in protest.

Despite this action, Walt Disney’s chief executive Bob Chapek failed to condemn the donations prompting the Disney family to pledge $500,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

In making the pledge, Roy P Disney, the co-founder of Walt Disney Co and great-nephew of Walt Disney explained to the Washington Times, “We were heartbroken when Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law in Florida.

“The fight isn’t over, and we are determined to do everything we can to stop this from happening in other places.” Days after the family announced their donation Charlee Corra Disney, Roy’s child, came out publicly as non-binary. 

The new rezoning bill, passed on Wednesday, could have massive tax implications for Disney if it loses the right to operate a private government over its roughly 25,000 acres site in Florida’s Reedy Creek district.

Currently, the corporation is considered to be the state’s largest employer with an estimated 6,000 people across its theme parks, making it one of the world’s busiest tourist attractions. Although it has not yet been confirmed, Democrats suspect that the new legislation may also have an impact on Orlando residents due to bond debts owed to the media giant.

The bill, which has been pushed by Governor DeSantis, is also tied to a wider review of the Congressional Reapportionment Plan which could see Florida electoral districts redesignated. One particular proposal in the plan sees the removal of the fifth district meaning that the black electorate would be divided disproportionately.

The review is not expected to be decided until June or July 2023. 

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