Disney World announced on Twitter yesterday that it will host its first-ever Disneyland After Dark: Pride Night on June 13th and 15th for all LGBTQ+ people and allies! The after-hours Pride Month event will offer a variety of themed entertainment, including Disney characters, photo opportunities, specialty menu items, merchandise, and, most importantly, inclusivity, along with other exciting offerings for attendees. June is pride month, and Disney’s Pride Night couldn’t have come at a better time! Disney has always had a good supportive relationship with the LGBTQ community and even unofficially celebrated “gay days” in the 90s.
Governor Ron DeSantis’s Disney Issues
The announcement is coming off the heels of Governor Ron DeSantis’s latest issues with Disney, which has been a year-long dispute. Disney is Florida’s largest employer and is a massive impact on Florida’s economy. The beef between DeSantis and Disney began after DeSantis passed his Parental Rights in Education Act or the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
What is the Don’t Say, Gay Bill
Florida Governor Ron Desantis isn’t making it easier for students and teachers. The “Don’t Say Gay Bill” is in full swing but completely barbaric and archaic. It seems DeSantis wants to go back in time and eradicate any progressive progress the state has made. Along with teachers being unable to talk about being LGBTQ and sexual identity, they are also stripped of being able to educate students on the truths of our history. This includes black history, racism, and sexual education. This essentially creates completely false histories and narratives that will impact our children’s ideologies and education on the history of America.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, on the surface, is completely insane, but when you learn about all the small details that encompass the bill, it is downright shocking, barbaric, and sick. The law is filled with confusion and inconsistencies, making it hard for teachers and students to understand and follow. The “Don’t Say Gay” law bans instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity. The Parental Rights in Education law claims it is limited to kindergarten through third grade. However, some say this law prohibits this education that is “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” which leaves all teachers open to lawsuits if they explore the topic in their classrooms of all ages. This law also does not give specific ages that are age appropriate or that are not. It is extremely wishy-washy.
The “Don’t Say Gay” law also leaves LGBTQ teachers questioning what they can say about themselves. Many have been informed to keep their partners private and not disclose their sexual orientation. Teachers have also been asked to stop wearing rainbows or have rainbows represented in the classroom. The rainbow flag and often rainbows themselves represent the LGBTQ community. This is downright silly. Although it represents the LGBTQ community, gatekeeping rainbows in a classroom is idiotic. We all grew up with Lisa Frank and drawing rainbows and learning about Roy G Biv. We all turned out fine even though we were “subject” to rainbows. Frankly, we have more significant issues to be worrying about than banning the use of rainbows.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Disneys chief executive Bob Chapek made some remarks opposing the bill and was quoted saying the following in a memo to employees “I want to be crystal clear: the entire leadership team and I unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company — and the world,”
DeSantis did not take this response well and responded to the New York Times by saying:
“If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” Mr. DeSantis wrote in a fund-raising email to supporters. Conservatives have also been talking negatively about Disney being “Woke Disney”. DeSantis also has a “Stop Woke Act.”
What is the Stop Woke Act
We should not have any right to change American history. We cannot pretend our country isn’t built on systemic racism. Another law DeSantis passed was eliminating the teaching of critical race theory. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been proposing the “Stop Woke Act” in 2021.
This act “protects employees against a hostile work environment due to critical race theory training.” “to give businesses, employees, children, and families tools to stand up against discrimination and woke indoctrination.” This act would codify the Florida Department of Education’s prohibiting teaching critical race theory to students K-12. Some things should not be taught to children with profound depth. Most things in life can be made kid-friendly and, therefore, appropriate. Keep in mind that 12th grade is your senior year of high school. This grade is your final and last high school before college or just proceeding into the “real world.”
The fact that DeSantis uses the word “woke” is comical. Let me enlighten you if you are unaware of what being “woke” means. Urban Dictionary claims that woke means paying attention to what’s going on. If you don’t pay attention, you will be left behind. I did omit a few swear words. It means you are awoken to the times. You are up to date with what is currently happening and take the time to educate yourself on hot topics. Often woke can come with a negative connotation when individuals use it to extremes, such as being “woke” or enlightened spiritually. But on its basic level, I would prefer to be more woke than not!
It was at this point a seeming war began between the Governor and Disney. Luckily Disney shows no signs of backing down or retracting its support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Disney and Taxes
Disney World, a sprawling 25,000-acre complex located near Orlando, benefits from a special tax status that dates back to 1967. This status allows the megaresort to operate as its municipal government, through a special zone known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, despite being sandwiched between two counties.
This designation has given the theme park the autonomy to make its own decisions regarding the planning and permitting process for construction on its property, as well as the ability to collect taxes to fund its own fire and medical response services and generate some of its electricity. This status has resulted in significant savings for the company, with experts estimating that Disney has saved millions of dollars annually in fees and taxes.
In 2022, Florida allowed Governor DeSantis to remove Disney’s status but later realized that taxpayers in Orange and Osceola Counties would have to pay for services such as fire protection, policing, and road maintenance. Additionally, the district had approximately $1 billion in debt that would have been transferred to the counties if abolished. To avoid these implications, a special session was held in February 2023, which allowed Disney to keep its special tax district. Still, the company can no longer appoint members to the oversight board. Governor DeSantis holds this power now
On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida launched a new attack against Disney, pledging to prevent the company’s last-minute efforts to remove his oversight of the entertainment giant. He announced that the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature will work to invalidate Disney’s move to strip power from its supervisory board before transferring to members supported by DeSantis.
DeSantis said, “You’re not going to have Disney have its government in Central Florida” he said at the conference. “You’re going to live under the same laws as everybody else.” Right after this statement, Disney announced its new Disneyland After Dark: Pride Night occurring in June.
History of Pride at Disney
Disney World is one of the most popular theme parks and resorts worldwide, attracting millions of visitors every year. Over the years, the Walt Disney Company, which owns and operates Disney World, has taken steps to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. From hosting annual LGBTQ+ events to featuring LGBTQ+ characters in its entertainment offerings, Disney has become a leader in promoting diversity and inclusivity.
Gay Days at Disney World
One of Disney’s most notable examples of its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community is its annual event, “Gay Days.” This event began in the 1990s and is typically held in early June and attracts thousands of LGBTQ+ visitors and their allies to the park. During the event, attendees wear red shirts to identify themselves and enjoy the park’s attractions and entertainment.
While Gay Days is not an official Disney event, the company has supported the event over the years. In fact, in 2019, Disney World hosted a “Magical Pride” event, which was billed as a “celebration of pride, diversity, and inclusivity.”
LGBTQ+ Characters in Disney Entertainment
Disney has also taken steps to be more inclusive in its entertainment offerings. In 2017, Disney featured its first openly gay character in the live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.” The character, LeFou, is portrayed as having a crush on the villainous Gaston. While some criticized the portrayal for being too subtle, it was still seen as a significant step forward in promoting LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream entertainment.
Disney has also included LGBTQ+ characters in some of its other entertainment offerings. For example, in the animated series “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” the main character’s best friend is revealed to have two dads. In addition, the animated film “Onward” features a character voiced by an openly gay actor, Lena Waithe.
Disney’s Commitment to Inclusivity
In addition to its entertainment offerings, Disney has ensured that its parks and resorts are welcoming and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ visitors. This includes implementing nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, Disney has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” for several years running.
While Disney’s efforts to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community have been well-received by many, there has been some backlash from conservative groups who believe that Disney is promoting a “gay agenda.” However, Disney has continued to stand by its commitment to inclusivity, stating that it is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all guests.
Disney Will Continue to Support the LGBTQ+ Community
Disney World has become a leader in promoting inclusivity and diversity, including its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. From hosting events like Gay Days to featuring LGBTQ+ characters in its entertainment offerings, Disney has ensured that its parks and resorts are welcoming and safe spaces for all visitors. While there has been some backlash to these efforts, Disney has remained committed to its values of inclusivity and respect for all individuals.
We will continue to see DeSantis attempt to do what he can to break Disney and keep spewing his anti-gay agenda. You can expect that Disney and our team at SFL Media will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community no matter the costs.