LGBTQ - In what certainly seems like an intentional rebuke of anti-LGBTQ+ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), The Walt Disney Company will host a massive LGBTQ+ rights conference in Central Florida this September.
The Out & Equal Workplace Summit touts itself as the largest LGBTQ+ conference in the world, uniting over 5,000 professionals from major companies and the U.S. government seeking to create inclusive workplaces.
The Miami Herald reported that the conference will take place this year at The Walt Disney Resort from September 11-14, and also that Disney will host again in 2024, when DeSantis could be running for president.
Disney and DeSantis have been feuding since the entertainment company spoke out against the governor’s anti-LGBTQ+ Don’t Say Gay law, which bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in lower grades and restricts them in higher grades, using language that LGBTQ+ activists say effectively ban mentioning LGBTQ+ people in the classroom.
Disney’s former CEO Bob Chapek, at first, stayed silent on the bill, but he ultimately bowed to pressure from employees to speak out against it.
After that, DeSantis not only continuously criticized the company in public, but he also oversaw the Florida legislature’s revocation of Disney’s decades-old special zoning agreement to punish them.
Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1968 and granted Disney World the power to tax itself to pay for water, power, roads, and fire services on the 25,000-acre property near Orlando. Abolishing it significantly reduces Disney’s autonomy. Many Floridians are worried that the move will create a massive tax burden for the local governments that will take its place.
DeSantis signed the bill abolishing the district in February and declared that“the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end.”
The bill also allows him to create a five-member board (appointed by him) to oversee government services in Disney’s district.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” DeSantis continued, “and accountability will be the order of the day.”
Florida Rep. Randy Fine (R), who sponsored the bill to take away Disney’s tax district, doesn’t think Disney is hosting the Out & Equal Conference to stick it to DeSantis.
“I’m not willing to interpret it as some grand conspiracy to stick it in the eye of the state of Florida,” Fine said. “Disney is part of the fabric of the Florida economy… If they weren’t holding conferences at Disney World, that would be news because that would be a big problem.”
Nevertheless, the conference historically covers topics DeSantis regularly rails against, such as the rights of trans youth and diversity and inclusion policies. The Herald said last year speakers also offered advice on dealing with state anti-LGBTQ+ bills.
DeSantis opposes LGBTQ+ rights on several levels.
In addition to signing the Don’t Say Gay law and retaliating against those who speak out against it, DeSantis has repeatedly spoken out against “transgenderism” and “woke gender ideology.”
“In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten. First graders shouldn’t have woke gender ideology in their curriculums. And that’s what we’re standing for,” DeSantis said in one conspiratorial rant.
“And I can tell you this: The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to students and back down from my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations, the chances of that are zero.”
He opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, a national law requiring federal and state governments to legally recognize same-sex marriages, and in 2021, signed a law that allows parents to sue if any public school or college allows transgender females to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.
In 2021, DeSantis vetoed his state’s budgetary funding for LGBTQ+ programs, including mental health support for survivors of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, housing for homeless queer youth, and funding for Orlando’s LGBTQ+ Community Center.
Out & Equal lists a slew of major corporate partners, including Uber, Apple, Bank of America, Experian, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Dell. Along with the former companies, The Walt Disney Company is listed as one of the organization’s top partners.
(Molly Sprayregen is a queer writer. Her work can be found in Out Magazine, Them, Into Magazine, The Associated Press, LGBTQ Nation, Roxane Gay's Gay Magazine, and more. More info at MollySpray.com. This article was first featured on LGBTQNation.com.)