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Heated Culture Wars Pit Florida Gov. DeSantis Against Disney

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Disney cast member Nicholas Maldonado participated in an employee walkout at Disney World on March 22. (AP File)
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The feud between Disney and Ron DeSantis is escalating with the Florida governor contemplating a Republican proposal to revoke a state law allowing the entertainment giant to function as its own government.

DeSantis is steamed because the company said Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education bill” — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents — should be repealed.

The law forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

Critics of the law say that it marginalizes LGBTQ people. DeSantis contends that the measure is reasonable and that parents — not teachers — should broach sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.

The legislation has pushed Florida and DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, to the forefront of the country’s culture wars.

Disney Adopts Harder Line After Employee Walkout

Disney CEO Bob Chapek initially reacted to the bill by saying his company’s “inspiring content” in programs such as “Modern Family” illuminated the company’s position better than any specific condemnation of the legislation.

However, that stance triggered a walkout by a small number of employees and an open letter stating that Disney’ had  “utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.”

Last week, Disney became more forceful in its criticism as the company called on the Florida Legislature to repeal the law or for the courts to strike it down.

During a news conference at the state Capitol the day after he signed the bill into law, DeSantis said, “I think (Disney) crossed the line. We’re going to make sure we’re fighting back when people are threatening our parents and threatening our kids.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill at Classical Preparatory school on Monday, March 28, 2022, in Shady Hills, Fla. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Florida Lawmaker Assails ‘Woke’ Ideology

Since 1967, Disney World essentially has acted as its own government under the Reedy Creek Improvement Act. Thus, the park oversees its land use and regulates its buildings and roads.

Now some GOP lawmakers are threatening to subject Disney to traditional government oversight.

“If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology,” Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach tweeted, “it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County.”

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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