DeSantis Raises “Don’t Say Gay” Stakes, What Will Disney Do Next?

Disney had no choice but to react to DeSantis

The “Don’t Say Gay” issue (termed so by critics) has been making headlines since it was first announced back in 2022. On March 28 of last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law an act that barred teachers in schools from talking about “sexual orientation or gender identity… in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The bill, officially called the Parental Rights in Education Act, started a long fight between Disney and DeSantis that eventually led to the dissolution of the special status afforded to the Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney Hits Back in 'Don't Say Gay' Fight

Related: In Fight With DeSantis Over ‘Don’t Say, Gay’ Disney Throws a Punch

Most recently, Disney clapped back at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, partnering with Out & Equal to “host a large conference on LGBTQ workplace representation.” The move continues the Mouse House’s longstanding relationship with the LGBTQ+ organization. But there’s now an update to torrid fight. In the latest news, as reported first by the Orlando Sentinel, and then by Associated Press, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced that the “administration is moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades,” expanding the controversial law that first banned this instruction for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Back when it was first announced, many critics felt it was targeted discrimination by Florida lawmakers against LGBTQ people.

Magic Kingdom Disney World

Disney characters at Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort/Courtesy of Disney

The law is scheduled to be voted on by the state Board of Education and has been put forth by the state Education Department. This proposal would not require legislative approval and is set to be voted on next month.

When this law was first announced, the Walt Disney Company’s then-CEO Bob Chapek was initially silent on the bill, facing a fair amount of backlash for keeping quiet, and then spoke out against the bill, which is what led to the domino effect that leads us to where the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney World Resort finds itself today.

Bob Iger Reedy Creek Takeover

Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke about the “Don’t Say Gay” debacle during the Townhall meeting he hosted when he first returned, sharing that the company’s “LGBTQ employees are important to [them].” He also added the situation was “delicate” and that it was necessary to “listen to the audience, have respect for those you serve and no disdain.” But Mr. Iger also made clear that he was sorry for the inadvertent entanglement in Florida’s politics that Disney had seen and suggested that Disney would stay out of politics.

The situation hangs in a careful balance. It doesn’t seem likely that Disney CEO Bob Iger will speak directly on the bill, but will he act on it in a more subtle move? Only time will tell.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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