This is yet another battle won for Republican governor Ron DeSantis in the war he’s waging against diversity programs in the state of Florida.
Disney versus DeSantis initially came to a head after DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics have aptly nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, into law. After Disney employees put pressure on leadership “to condemn the bill, Disney’s chief executive at the time, Bob Chapek, publicly criticized the bill, saying that he was concerned that it ‘could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, nonbinary and transgender kids and families.’”
The governor responded by trying to rescind Disney World’s special tax district designation. After this plan failed, Florida’s State Legislature decided to pivot, creating a new district instead and “stripped the company of its power to appoint the five members of the district’s oversight board and gave it to Mr. DeSantis.”
The new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) took control in February and is essentially another arm for DeSantis, serving as “an echo of the Florida governor’s agenda.”
In addition to eliminating DEI programs, CFTOD released a statement saying that “any DEI job duties” would also be jettisoned. “Also axed were initiatives left over from when the district was controlled by Disney supporters, which awarded contracts based on goals of achieving racial or gender parity,” the Associated Press reports.
Glenton Gilzean, a Black man, is the new administrator of CFTOD. Gilzean “has been a fellow or member at two conservative institutions, the James Madison Institute and the American Enterprise Institute Leadership Network, as well as a DeSantis appointee to the Florida Commission on Ethics.” He has referred to DEI initiatives as “illegal and simply un-American.
Gilzean released a statement, which said in part “Our district will no longer participate in any attempt to divide us by race or advance the notion that we are not created equal…As the former head of the Central Florida Urban League, a civil rights organization, I can say definitively that our community thrives only when we work together despite our differences.”
Up next, the fight will be moving to the courtroom. Earlier this year, Disney filed a lawsuit against “the board and DeSantis in federal court, arguing that the state retaliated against the company for exercising its First Amendment rights.” In turn, the board then proceeded to sue “Disney in state court, where a Florida judge recently rejected Disney’s request to dismiss the case.”
Meanwhile, the Florida governor is continuing his campaign to achieve the Republican presidential nomination. These efforts appear to be part of his agenda to highlight “both his ‘anti-woke’ and ‘anti-corporate’ agenda on the campaign trail;” however they don’t appear to be that successful since “[n]ational polls show him trailing former President Donald J. Trump by a large margin.”