Disney seemed to have given up the fight in the ongoing culture war with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. The governor stripped Walt Disney World of its self-governing power, and CEO Bob Iger said Disney would not fight the new governing board.
But now, Disney has decided to throw a punch. Walt Disney World announced that it will host a major conference promoting LBGTQ+ rights in the workplace this September and September 2024. The 2024 conference will be held in DeSantis’ backyard just months before the presidential election, which the Florida governor hopes to be a part of.
Out & Equal will host the event, bringing together several major American companies, including Apple, Mcdonald’s, Walmart, Hilton, Amazon, several government agencies, and LBGTQ+ advocates. The Conference, which will run from September 11-14, is expected to have more than 5,000 attendees.
Out & Equal says this is “the largest LGBTQ+ conference in the world.” Its website says:
Over more than 20 years, Summit has grown to become the preferred place to network and share strategies that create inclusive workplaces, where everyone belongs and where LGBTQ+ employees can be out and thrive.
Neither DeSantis’ office nor the Central Florida Tourism Oversite District, which was put in place when Disney lost control of its district, have commented on the Conference. But this announcement comes at a perilous time for the Disney Company.
Since returning as CEO, Bob Iger has reorganized the company into three divisions and announced a series of significant layoffs. This week, it was announced that the layoffs would begin before the Walt Disney Company’s April 3 earnings call with investors.
Last week, Disney was also in a Delaware court defending itself against a lawsuit from a shareholder on the company’s response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The lawsuit alleges that responding publicly to the law damaged the company’s reputation and caused the company’s stock price to decline.
When the “don’t say gay” bill was initially debated in the Florida legislature, former CEO Bob Chapek remained silent. It wasn’t until he faced backlash from Walt Disney World Cast Members and LGBTQ+ rights advocates that he finally spoke out against it. It was this decision to speak against the ‘don’t say gay’ bill that ultimately drew the anger of Governor Desantis and Florida lawmakers, leading to the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Disney has had a long relationship with Out & Equal and has given money to the organization in the past. But with Governor DeSantis gearing up for a Presidential run, there is a real possibility that he will comment on or have the Central Florida Tourism Oversite District act on this upcoming Conference, especially when it will be landing on his doorstep that close to the next presidential election.
We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.