Florida votes to punish Disney for being too progressive

(Miami) The Florida parliament passed a bill on Thursday removing a favorable status enjoyed by the Disney World amusement park, the entertainment giant having defended certain progressive themes not appreciated by elected Republicans.

Posted at 3:50 p.m.
Updated at 5:08 p.m.

Gerard MARTINEZ
France Media Agency

The text was now to be signed into law by conservative Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose relations with Disney have soured recently, even though the company acts as a tourist magnet in his sunny state.

Mr. DeSantis can not digest that Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney, has spoken out publicly against a law he initiated, prohibiting the teaching of subjects related to sexual orientation or gender identity at primary school.

This text is nicknamed by its opponents “Don’t say gay” (“Don’t talk about gays”).

Each with a Republican majority, the two houses of parliament sitting in the capital Tallahassee voted for the bill: the Senate on Wednesday by 23 votes against 16, followed by the House of Representatives on Thursday by 70 votes against 38. A double vote synonymous with setbacks for Disney, which remains an economic heavyweight in the region.

55 years of favorable status

The special status in the crosshairs of the text was granted to Disney at the time of the construction of the Disney World leisure site in the 1960s. It offers the entertainment giant a large autonomy of local management and exempts it from most of the state regulations.

This amusement park near Orlando is among the most visited in the world and the Disney brand remains a favorite with Americans.

But, mired in this controversy, the giant is seeing an accumulation of criticism which it would have done well, while the title on the stock market fell 2.4% after the vote, ending at the lowest in months.

The controversy surrounding Ron DeSantis’ law on LGBT issues in schools has proven to be a headache for Disney after an internal memo leaked showing Bob Chapek was reluctant to take a stand on the law.

Employees of the group then demonstrated in March against the “apathy” of the group and calls for a boycott began to circulate on social networks, eventually leading the CEO to declare against the law.

Pendulum return

But, with the current return of the pendulum, the criticisms are now the strongest on the Republican side.

“Disney does not say a word about the dictatorship in China, because it would cost them billions of dollars. But he has no problem using his corporate power to lie about laws passed democratically by lawmakers in Florida,” Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican tenor, said this week.

As for Randy Fine, an elected Republican at the forefront of the parliamentary initiative aimed at limiting the exemption status of Disney World, he recalled that Disney was only a “guest” in Florida.

Relations have not always been strained between Ron DeSantis and Disney, which notably employs more than 75,000 people at Disney World and had contributed financially to the Republican candidate’s campaign, not to mention the Democratic camp.

But they have now turned sour and the giant has suspended these electoral financings.

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