In this handout photo provided by Walt Disney World Resort, Mickey Mouse pauses on Main Street, U.S.A. just before sunrise at Walt Disney World Resort on July 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida Source: Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

Disney Doling Out Donations Again to 'Don't Say Gay' Florida Lawmakers

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

As the dust settles from a two-year flap between Florida's GOP-led legislature and Disney, it's back to business as usual: The House of Mouse is once again dishing up the dough for state lawmakers – and that includes those who supported the state's notorious "Don't Say Gay" law, Salon reported.

"Disney has now shelled out $87,000 in political donations, according to the most recent campaign filings, most of the money going to political committees connected with state lawmakers," the writeup noted, "including state Rep. Josie Tomkow, state Sen. Jason Brodeur and state Sen. Joe Gruters, all Republicans who voted for the 'Don't Say Gay' legislation."

The controversial law's original form banned classroom acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ people through third grade, which critics feared would lead to erasure of students, staff, and administrators in the schools who are not cisgender and heterosexual. A year later, lawmakers expanded the law to criminalize any classroom discussion of LGBTQ+ people in the classroom all the way through high school.

"Despite allegations from the right that it has aggressively promoted liberal causes, Disney did not initially take a public position on the 'Don't Say Gay' law, sparking protests from its employees, who urged the company to use its political influence to protect LGBTQ+ workers and their families," Salon recalled.

"In response, then-CEO Bob Chapek called the bill a 'challenge to basic human rights,' apologized to the employees for not taking action sooner and, beginning in March 2022, suspended Disney's political contributions."

Chapek was ousted not long afterward, with former CEO Bob Iger stepping in once more to take the reins. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron Desantis attacked the company, calling it "woke," and the state legislature set out to punish Disney, repealing longstanding agreements with the corporate giant that had granted it self-governing status and tax accommodations.

Disney sued in response, and a legal tussle ensued, but all of that settled down with a recent agreement between the company and the state government. Disney had stopped contributing to politicians, but now has turned on the spigot once again.

Metro Weekly detailed that the donations have taken the form of "in-kind contributions, in which a donor provides services, products, event space, or other benefits valued at a certain monetary level."

Among those who benefited from this largesse was "Citizens for Solutions, a political action committee chaired by State Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), who not only voted for the 'Don't Say Gay' law, but also the bill to wrest away Disney's right of self-governance," Metro Weekly noted.

"Brodeur also recently proposed a bill that would allow anybody accused of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia to sue their detractors for defamation," Metro Weekly added. "That bill failed in committee this session, but is likely to be revived in future legislative sessions as elected Republicans continue to mount attacks against their detractors."

Salon took note of the timing of Disney's renewed handouts, observing that "Disney, which is anticipating a major, $60 billion expansion in its theme park operations in Florida and across the globe, reached an agreement with DeSantis on Wednesday night, which allows the company to invest $17 billion in planned development at Walt Disney World without interference for the next 15 years."

However, the giveaways to lawmakers hostile to LGBTQ+ people were controversial even before the new donations came to light, the outlet reported, detailing that "the company's potential reversal was previewed in a shareholder meeting in which a proposal to require the company to be more transparent about its donations was voted down."

"The vote was met with backlash from some shareholders, who feared that Disney might once again give money to Florida Republicans," with their concerns proving well-grounded.

The move is a return to old habits on Disney's part. UK newspaper the Daily Mail detailed in 2022 that just after "Don't Say Gay" was first introduced by GOP state lawmakers in Florida on Jan. 20, Disney forked over a fat check – in the sum of $25,000 – to the Republican Party of Florida.

That donation followed an even bigger sum that Disney had splashed out on Jan. 11, when it handed the GOP $100,000.

"Disney also donated $25,000 to [a] Democrat leadership fund," the Daily Mail noted.

The torrent of cash reported by the Daily Mail echoed earlier reports of Disney's generosity to the sponsors of "Don't Say Gay," including an NPR piece about Disney having flooded the GOP's coffers.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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