Analysis: DeSantis vs. Disney: Homophobia and hate are under the surface right-wing talking points

And let’s be clear about the root cause: resistance to LGBTQ equality.

The impending removal of Walt Disney World’s special tax district is shrouded in anti-big business rhetoric. But the chain of events that led to “DeSantis v. Disney” began with the Florida GOP’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Homophobia and hatred are just under the surface of the lofty talking points on “parental rights in education”.

Sure, parents have rights, but right-wing media stars and conservative lawmakers are galvanizing viewers and voters by demonizing transgender teachers and condemning Disney-inclusive shows.

The most inflammatory commentators use terms such as “child abuse” and accuse opponents of “predating” children for the purpose of sexual predation, sometimes roughly taking a teacher’s comments out of context, or acting as an outspoken educator represents an entire profession.

It is a conservative reaction to the growing acceptance of gay and transgender people, with entire networks and websites programmed in fear that conservative beliefs will be trampled on.

“We see these weaponized issues all over the country,” Democratic political strategist David Axelrod said on CNN Wednesday night.

Florida is one of the focal points. When state Republicans pushed the “parental rights” bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law earlier this year, a wide variety of opponents said the law could hurt the LGBTQ community by creating a chilling effect.

disney (SAY)the largest private employer in the state, did not initially take a public stand against the bill, which infuriated LGBTQ employees and allies.

The internal revolt prompted both an apology and an adjustment from Disney CEO Bob Chapek. His stated support for those employees and his halting of political donations in Florida drew heavy criticism from Republicans in the state.

That’s when state lawmakers took aim at the unique status that allows Disney to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme parks.

Taking a cue from DeSantis, the GOP-controlled state Senate voted to eliminate Disney privileges on Wednesday and the State House voted the same on Thursday.

It’s a move “widely seen as retaliatory” by DeSantis and his loyalists, wrote Brooks Barnes of The New York Times.
The “Don’t Say Gay” undercurrent is undeniable. Republican Florida State Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsored the tax district bill, told “CNN Tonight” on Wednesday that Disney “tried to bring California values ​​to Florida.”

Fine also implored the company to remember that “they’re a guest in our state” and said “if you want special privileges, you better behave yourself.” The expected change would not take effect until June 2023, more than a year from now. This means that Disney will have plenty of time and space to negotiate.

Disney, seeing no benefit in commenting, remained silent on the matter.

But DeSantis, sensing a political advantage as he prepares for a 2024 presidential race, is unlikely to let go. “If Disney wants to fight, they picked the wrong guy,” he claimed in a fundraising email Wednesday.

Further reading

– Kadia Goba’s framing for BuzzFeed News: “Florida Republicans are trying to change the narrative around their push to end special incentives for Disney by saying they’re protecting free markets, a change from what they’ve explicitly said it’s in the past: retaliation for the company’s support of LGBTQ rights…”
— Colby Itkowitz has an article about it on the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post. “The rapid escalation of public support for the rights of the LGBTQ community in recent years has quelled much of the blatant homophobia in the nation’s political discourse,” Itkowitz wrote. “But, in recent weeks, Republicans have returned to verbal and legal assaults on the community, sometimes employing baseless tropes suggesting children are groomed or recruited by gay rights advocates.” In short: call Democrats criminals, get right-wing media coverage, raise money, win elections…

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