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Disney settles Florida dispute after 'Don't Say Gay' bill backlash

The legal action came after Disney criticized the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill pushed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (VALERIE MACON)
The legal action came after Disney criticized the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill pushed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (VALERIE MACON)

Disney reached a settlement with Florida tourism authorities Wednesday after a row over its pushback against Governor Ron DeSantis's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which aimed to outlaw teachings of certain LGBTQ issues in schools.

The entertainment giant took legal action after Florida's lawmakers revoked a unique arrangement which allowed Disney -- the state's largest private employer -- to control development on a chunk of land home to its city-sized theme park.

The cancellation was widely seen as retaliation by DeSantis, a former Republican presidential candidate, after Disney criticized his 2022 law which banned lessons on sexuality and gender issues in Florida's elementary schools.

On Wednesday, Disney announced it had reached a settlement with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the DeSantis-appointed body which in 2023 took over management of the land hosting Walt Disney World Resort.

It had replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District which since the 1960s had been headed by Disney-selected representatives with special permission to govern some aspects of the area.

The settlement sets the scene for a future agreement between Disney and Florida authorities over how the two sides will manage the site.

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the agreement "opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district," adding it would enable continued investment and job creation.

Disney employs tens of thousands of staff at its theme park and headquarters in Orlando.

In March 2022, the company announced its opposition to Florida's newly passed Parental Rights in Education Act and said it would support efforts to overturn the bill.

"Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney said.

It came after some of its workers staged a walkout in mid-March ahead of the legislation being passed.

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