After assuming control of Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has appointed a new oversight board, and some members hold extremely prejudiced views regarding the LGBTQ+ community, which could have future impacts on the Walt Disney Company as a whole.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District Act filed by what became the Walt Disney World Resort area allowed for significant legislative freedom for Disney over the course of nearly fifty years. For instance, the Reedy Creek board, primarily made up of representatives with ties to the Disney brand, maintained the theme park location’s roadways, water systems, building inspections, personal fire department, and long-term infrastructure debt.
However, conflict with Governor Ron DeSantis over his controversial “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which limits K-12 educational professionals from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom, jeopardized Disney’s special tax district. Last month, DeSantis approved a bill revoking Walt Disney Company control over the existing advisory board in favor of appointing all five members of the new body himself, and they overwhelmingly share his views and/or have personal connections to his political campaign.
Notably, board member Ron Peri, a former pastor and CEO of Christian ministry The Gathering, likened homosexuality to “evil” and contagious disease last year, blaming the increasing amount of laws decriminalizing LGBTQ+ identities and strengthening the community’s civil rights for “why there are homosexuals today.”
However, that’s not all; according to CNN, Peri also provided “a baseless conspiracy theory that tap water could be making more people gay” and seemed to favor “societal constraint” to prevent gay people from existing. Furthermore, the new board also includes other conservative representatives such as Martin Garcia, a contributor to DeSantis’ reelection campaign, and co-founder of the conservative organization Moms for Liberty Bridget Ziegler, whose husband is chairman of Florida’s Republican Party.
As a result, State Representative Rita Harris voiced concerns that DeSantis’ new board might enact biased influences on the Walt Disney Company’s business model based on their own political beliefs. Moreover, DeSantis himself made claims which seemed to suggest he intends to further punish the animation studio by “altering its entertainment offerings” or forcing a Florida resident discount at its Disney Parks.
Specifically, the Governor mentioned wanting more Disney content “that all families can appreciate,” which likely refers to his belief that recent Disney programming injects too much “sexuality” for “young kids,” such as the inclusion of a same-sex teen romance in Strange World (2022). With voiced intentions such as these, just how much the Reedy Creek decision will impact the Walt Disney Company’s future as it enters its 100th year remains unknown.