LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Disney workers in Florida are expected to hold a walkout Tuesday in protest of a controversial piece of education legislation that critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
Some Disney workers are calling on their employer to take a stronger stand against the "Parental Rights In Education" measure that was passed by the Florida Legislature earlier this month and that Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign into law.
Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, at least one Disney employee could be seen standing in front of the resort's entrance in Lake Buena Vista, holding a sign that read "Trans Rights Are Human Rights."
Organizers said on Twitter Tuesday afternoon "the pressure here is for Disney to permanently pull funding from supporters of this bill. This is about our community's and castmembers in FL and it always will be."
Disney released the following statement Tuesday about the planned walkout:
"Disney Parks, Experiences and Products is committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form. We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ cast, crew, guests and fans who make their voices heard today and every day."
The "Parental Rights In Education" bill bans classroom instruction on "sexual orientation or gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade, or "in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
Speaking in Wesley Chapel Tuesday morning, DeSantis said anyone taking part in the planned Disney rally is "in favor of injecting sexual instruction to five, six, and seven-year-old kids."
"For kindergartners or first graders or second graders, the classroom instruction they're getting should not be involving these issues involving sexuality, particulary things like transgenderism where they're being taught that they may be able to change genders," DeSantis said.
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The governor added the purpose of the "Parental Rights In Education" bill is to give parents and guardians complete control over how their children learn about human sexuality.
According to legislative documents, DeSantis has not yet received the bill. Once he does, he has 15 days to sign it into law.
"It will be relatively soon. I don't think it's gonna be tomorrow, but I think it'll be relatively soon," DeSantis said Tuesday.
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Tuesday's protest is dubbed the "Disney Do Better Walkout" and is supported by people at the Compass Community Center, an LGBTQ community center in Lake Worth Beach.
"With as many employees working in the state of Florida for the Disney company, between the cruise ships and the organization, I would venture to say that Disney management is paying attention, because this is a deeply personal issue," said Julie Seaver, the executive director of the Compass Community Center.
Earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Chapek addressed the company's stance on the legislation, telling shareholders he and other Disney executives are planning to meet with DeSantis.
Peter Ricci, the director of Florida Atlantic University's tourism management program, said Disney is the engine that drives tourism to Florida.
"I think some groups will cancel their travel to Florida based on the recent legislation in Tallahassee, whereas others support us because of it," Ricci said. "In the short run, the staged walkout will be very trying for Disney."
Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, told WPTV in a statement that "the Parental Rights In Education bill has been dishonestly and falsely portrayed by the media and partisan opponents. The bill does not discriminate against any orientation or identity, nor has it chilled anyone's rights."
DeSantis has also been critical of Disney's response, calling the corporation "woke."
"It's a little surprising to see him come after them so strong and, frankly, it seems a bit unnecessary," WPTV political expert Brian Crowley said.
Chapek said Disney will donate $5 million to organizations that work to protect LGTBQ+ rights.