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How Disney found its pride – and riled the American right

Once known for its ‘traditional’ values, the entertainment giant is battling US conservatives over an anti-gay bill. Indeed the House of Mouse has had a long relationship with the LGBTQ+ community ‘Christ. they’re going after Mickey Mouse,” said president Joe Biden in April, bemoaning the Republican party’s targeting of yet another American institution. A few days earlier, at a desk surrounded by small children, Florida governor Ron DeSantis had stripped Disney World of its self-governing status. Since its inception in 1967, Disney’s central Florida estate – officially the Reedy Creek Improvement District – has effectively operated under its own jurisdiction. The agreement has worked for both sides. Disney funds and manages public services in the district in return for autonomy over governance and development. Disney World has become the cornerstone of Florida’s tourist economy, employing 75,000 people locally. This is supposed to be Disney World’s 50th year, but the company finds itself in danger of being cast out of its own magic kingdom. DeSantis’s move was explicitly in retaliation to Disney’s opposition to HB 1557, better known as the “Don’t say gay” law. This vaguely worded bill prohibits discussion of, or instruction on, issues of sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida schools. After the successful weaponisation of “critical race theory” (an academic field that considers systemic discrimination in public life), Republicans have identified LGBTQ+ rights as another potential wedge issue, even linking them with paedophilia and grooming. DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted that the bill could be “more accurately described as an anti-grooming bill”. Disney responded with a statement calling for HB 1557 to be struck down in the courts. Continue reading...

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