“The Tide Is Turning”: Disney, LGBT Activists Claim Victory Over Governor DeSantis

in Walt Disney World

A person in a suit and tie is shown in front of a large rainbow flag. The flag's colors are vibrant, waving against a clear sky. The person appears to be making an expression as they look slightly to the right.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Activists are claiming victory over far-right Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who spent most of the last year battling The Walt Disney Company over LGBTQIA+ controversies. Despite the politician and the Mouse having apparently come to terms, it seems that the activists who pressured Disney into the fight still consider the result a win.

Ron DeSantis sitting in front of a flag.
Credit: Ron DeSantis

Tensions had simmered for months between The Walt Disney Company and Ron DeSantis before an open feud and legal war exploded in March 2022, largely over the media corporation’s support of progressive causes like LGBTQIA+ rights and DEI practices and the governor’s adamant opposition to them.

When former CEO Bob Chapek publicly came out against the Parental Rights in Education Act (popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law) after months of pressure from LGBTQIA+ activist groups, Governor DeSantis swiftly retaliated.

DeSantis dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special tax area where most of the Walt Disney World Resort is located, and replaced it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and installed a board of supervisors full of his political allies.

Lawsuits between Disney and DeSantis exploded, with the Mouse claiming its First Amendment had been violated and the CFTOD board alleging the company was “one of the greatest examples of corporate cronyism in modern American history.”

Depressed DeSantis against justice scales
Credit: Inside the Magic

Related: “Freedom Month”: Governor DeSantis Bans Colors at Disney World

While DeSantis and Disney fought in the legal system, the Mouse’s reputation among Republicans and other conservative elements in America dipped even further. A survey by the American Conservative Values ETF (ACVF) labeled Disney as the “most woke liberal company” in the country several months ago, and the company has faced lawsuits claiming its internal DEI practices are illegal.

Despite that, a new poll by Axios shows that approval rates for Disney are actually trending upward for the first time in years, indicating that attacking the company’s progressive reputation is not the weapon it was a year ago when DeSantis came after the Mouse. Axios’ analysis indicated:

  • Disney’s overall reputation score fell to 70.87 in 2023 from 77.39 in 2020.
  • In 2024, the reputation score bounced back up to 71.8, its first gain since 2017, thanks mostly to renewed favorability among Republicans.
  • Disney’s reputation score among Republicans jumped from 61.03 in 2023 to 67.8 in 2024.
  • Disney has the fourth-largest political skew toward Democrats of all companies measured in the Axios Harris Poll 100, ranked only behind Target, Anheuser-Busch, and Pfizer.

Curiously, at the same time as Republicans are looking more favorably on Disney, the LGBTIA+ groups who spurred its battle with Governor DeSantis feel the conservative politician is currently backpedaling (per The Guardian).

Ron DeSantis with Mickey Mouse in a silver suit
Credit: NBC, edited by Inside the Magic

Equality Florida, an LGBT rights activist group, co-founder and executive director Nadine Smith says:

“Florida has shamefully been named the No 1 book-banning state in the country, educators have left the profession, and LGBTQ teachers were told to take down photos of their families in classrooms. But the tide is turning. We’ve seen thousands of parents mobilizing to school board meetings to speak out against these attacks on their rights. Families are standing up for their kids – and they’re not letting [Governor DeSantis] and the legislature push their kids around anymore.”

Smith’s organization was instrumental in the March settlement that essentially de-fanged the Parental Rights in Education Act, significantly reducing its impact and authority over schools. Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director of Equality Florida, added, “We stopped or neutralized 21 of 22 anti-LGBTQ bills this session…Momentum is on our side.”

A picturesque view of a fairy tale Cinderella Castle with spires, under a clear blue sky with the sun setting behind, casting a warm glow over the scene at Walt Disney World Resort.
Credit: Disney

Related: Anti-Wokeness, Gay Days, and DeSantis: A Disney Expert Weighs In

Notably, despite DeSantis’ alleged anti-LGBT stance in the past, he recently signed the HIV Infection Prevention Drugs Act, which increases access to life-saving medication and is being seen as a significant step forward for LGBTQIA+ rights in Florida. At the same time, the governor has significantly backpedaled from book-banning efforts like the Parental Rights in Education Act that led to his Disney war in the first place.

Governor DeSantis has claimed that pieces of legislation like the one Disney dramatically opposed are being used by “bad faith actors” and that “some people are taking the curriculum transparency (policies favored by his administration) and trying to weaponize that for political purposes.” In other words, he has backed down under pressure and in the wake of his failed run for the 2024 presidential election.

It is still debatable whether either DeSantis or Disney won their battle, but at least for now, it seems that LGBTQIA+ activist groups feel they landed on the right side.

Do you think that DeSantis has backed down from his previous policies after the Disney feud? Tell us in the comments below!

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