Florida special legislative session to include attack on Disney over its opposition to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Walt Disney World is among the properties that could be impacted by Florida legislation targeting its parent company over its opposition to Florida’s new “Don’t say gay” law. Photo: Wikipedia

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expanded the call of a special session on congressional redistricting opening on Tuesday to include “special districts,” including the one that gives The Walt Disney Co. governing authority over the parks and other developments it operates in Central Florida.

“Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968. And that includes the Reedy Creek improvement district,” the governor said during a news conference in The Villages in Central Florida.

He thanked House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, who flanked him on stage, “for not only working for the reapportionment but for stepping up and making sure that we make the sunset determination on those special districts happen, which I think is very important,” DeSantis said.

The move would make good on threats by DeSantis and legislative Republicans to punish Disney for opposing Florida’s so-called “Don’ Say Gay” law which prohibits classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 or in a manner that is not “age-appropriate,” which lawmakers have said means students in older grades. The law itself is titled “Parental Rights in Education.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Screenshot: KXAN News.

DeSantis signed the measure into law on March 28 amid complaints it discriminates against LGBTQ people.

The Legislature authorized Reedy Creek in 1967, as Disney prepared to open Walt Disney World. According to the authority’s website, Its 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties encompass four theme parks, a sports complex, 175 miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterways, the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, plus water, natural gas, wastewater, sanitation, and electric utilities.

Backlash

Disney attempted to sit out the controversy of the law while the Legislature debated it during the recently concluded regular session but, pressured by employees, ultimately came out against it and stopped campaign financial contributions in Florida.

“Do what you believe in, but understand, if you are out protesting this bill, you are by definition putting yourself in favor of injecting sexual instruction to five, six and seven-year-old kids. I think most people think that’s wrong. I think parents especially think that’s wrong,” DeSantis said on March 22.

Michael Moline is a reporter for the Florida Phoenix, which first published this report.