Florida Democrats should boycott an upcoming political conference at Disney this summer following the company’s handling of legislation critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, said the president of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus Tuesday.
“This is really tone deaf on the part of the Florida Democratic Party,” said caucus president Stephen Gaskill about plans to hold Leadership Blue 2022 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort on June 17-19 which also falls during Pride Month. “The only way that I can say it is, ‘Read the room.’”
“On the heels of this Legislative Session, where the LGBTQ+ community has been under fire, and where Disney found itself in a very uncomfortable position of not supporting its LGBTQ+ employees and guests, it’s really tone deaf for FDP to place this event at a Disney park.”
Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is gay, did not criticize the company directly but recognized the poor optics of holding a fundraiser on Disney property.
“There’s bad timing with this,” he said. “We need to look at the date. I think we need to go back and reexamine this.”
Disney public relations did not respond immediately to a request for comment Tuesday.
Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek has dealt with a wave of anger from employees and theme park fans over his silence on the controversial Florida bill that that limits what educators can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.
During a shareholder’s meeting earlier this month, Chapek revealed he was against the bill but said Disney didn’t take a public stance earlier because the company was lobbying quietly behind the scenes with legislators, a stance Chapek acknowledged was “ultimately unsuccessful.”
“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” Chapek said in a memo to employees after the March 9 shareholder’s meeting.
Some Disney employees said they planned to walk off the job Tuesday in protest of the company’s response. Others have voiced their anger aimed at Chapek on social media or during the shareholder’s meeting.
Gaskill shared how he plans to respond.
The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus won’t participate in Leadership Blue and is asking elected officials and candidates to skip the event as well unless Leadership Blue is moved to another venue outside Disney, Gaskill said in an interview.
“Disney is facing the problem right now, but they’re not fixing the problem. There’s a long way to go for them to earn back the trust and loyalty of their LGBTQ+ employees and guests,” Gaskill said. “We’re prepared to work with them to help them do that, but rewarding them with a major event like this right off the bat without any other concessions doesn’t make any sense.”
The Leadership Blue event features Democrats meet with each other, talk policy and plan for the upcoming election cycle.
Gaskill acknowledged how important the conference is for Democrats but said, “This is the right decision” to skip it.