FLORIDA — The legislature should expand the scope of this week’s special session to consider revoking Disney World’s special district status, which gives the Magic Kingdom the right to self-govern, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.
In addition to hammering out a congressional reapportionment plan for the next 10 years during the session that began Tuesday, DeSantis will ask lawmakers to consider stripping Disney World of the autonomy it has enjoyed for the past 55 years.
The Disney vs. DeSantis showdown is over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which goes into effect July 1.
DeSantis has been embroiled in a battle with Disney World over the passage of House Bill 1557 last month. The ambiguously worded bill would prohibit or restrict classroom instructors for kindergarten through third grade from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Critics say the Parental Rights in Education bill is an attempt to ban LGBTQ topics and force teachers and students to conceal their sexuality. Activists say it sets a dangerous precedent.
Just as youngsters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of being gay or identifying with a different gender, activist groups like Equality Florida said the law will force these students back into the closet, causing depression, confusion and suicidal behavior.
Additionally, gay and transgender teachers feel the law will inhibit their freedom to be themselves for fear they will lose their jobs, thus the derogatory nickname for the law, “Don’t say gay.”
“Over time and continuing today, our nation has strived to make good on its promise that everyone is entitled to be treated with equal dignity under the law,” said attorney Roberta Kaplan, who has filed a federal complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida challenging Florida House Bill 1557.
“With the passage of HB 1557, Florida has not only taken a giant step backwards, but it has done so at the expense of our children, the most vulnerable members of society,” Kaplan said. “It is hard to imagine anything more offensive to our constitutional system than treating one group of school kids as second class based solely on who they are or who their parents are. This law cannot be allowed to stand.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality, as well as students, parents and a teacher.
“By design, HB 1557 constructs a statutory scheme in which any rational person who discusses or acknowledges any aspect of LGBTQ identity must fear running afoul of the law,” Kaplan said. “The effect of HB 1557 is thus to chill the rights of teachers, students and school officials, who, like any rational person, will avoid the danger zone created by a state-mandated censorship code.”
Following the signing of by DeSantis last month, Disney World issued a statement condemning the bill.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” said Disney World in a statement to Patch. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the Legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
Criticized for failing to react to the bill before it was too late, Disney CEO Bob Chapek also sent out a personal apology to LGBTQ employees and the LGBTQ community at large.