Disney is planning an LGBTQ event amid a growing feud with DeSantis prompted by Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

April 18, 2023, 5:41 PM UTC
People watch the evening light show on the Sleeping Beauty Castle at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif.
Disneyland has announced a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ event.
Gary Hershorn—Getty Images

Disney has been fighting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for over a year after he signed a law banning elementary schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity. The spat has since escalated to a point where Disney World could lose its special tax status in Florida that has helped support its vast operations for decades.

Now Disney is hosting a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ event at its Disneyland theme park in California on June 13 and June 15 that threatens to escalate tensions with DeSantis. The company announced the event last week and shared a tweet about it Monday, saying: “The first-ever Disneyland After Dark: Pride Nite is coming to @Disneyland during Pride Month in June! This separately ticketed event celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community & allies will have themed entertainment, Disney characters, specialty menu items & more.”

The tweet came on the same day that DeSantis threatened retribution against Disney for publicly opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” law by saying he may build a state prison near Disney World. Disney’s promotion of an event to celebrate Pride Month reaffirms the company’s support of the LGBTQ community and risks raising the temperature in its Florida fight. 

Disney and DeSantis did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.

“Don’t Say Gay” law  

The feud between Disney and DeSantis began after the governor signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, in March last year. Disney, led at the time by CEO Bob Chapek, initially stayed quiet about the bill, but after widespread criticism from employees for his silence, Chapek ultimately opposed the controversial bill.

In an effort to punish Disney for its opposition, DeSantis said he would eliminate the company’s special tax privileges in the state. The tax implications of revoking the special status would be significant, and it could affect residents in counties near Disney World; Disney is Florida’s largest employer.

“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to [marshal] your economic might to attack the parents of my state? We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that,” DeSantis said at an event last year about sparring with Disney, Politico reported

In February, DeSantis finally signed the bill that gave him the power to appoint members to the government board that oversees Disney World, effectively ending the company’s self-governance of its sprawling 25,000-acre park and resort.

But Disney had a trick up its sleeve before that could become law. In an unusual legal maneuver, the former board of the Disney district handed its authority back to the entertainment company and limited the powers of the new board appointed by DeSantis until the death of the “last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England.” 

On Monday, DeSantis announced legislative action that could override the “royal clause.” 

“They thought they could create some type of development agreement that would render everything that we did null and void,” DeSantis said Monday, Reuters reported. “That’s not gonna fly.”

Disney’s current chief, Bob Iger, has described DeSantis’s efforts to control the company’s special district as not only “anti-business but anti-Florida.” In a recent interview with Time magazine, the CEO has said he is open to having a discussion with DeSantis if approached because of Florida’s importance to Disney, and vice versa.

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