Florida Democratic Party Chairman Manny Diaz said the party was choosing “new dates and new locations” for its annual big fundraiser after criticizing the event being held at a Disney-owned property, which has been criticized for its response to legislation that critics have called the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill.
The Leadership Blue event was scheduled for June 17-19 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, a weekend that also includes Father’s Day and the June 19 holiday and falls during Pride Month.
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The Florida Democrats’ LGBTQ+ Caucus released a statement on Tuesday saying the group plans to skip Leadership Blue and encourages all elected officials and candidates to do the same.
“Planning Leadership Blue at Disney during Pride Month this year is nothing but tone deaf,” said caucus chair Stephen Gaskill.
Diaz announced shortly after that Leadership Blue would be postponed and moved to a new location.
“We heard feedback regarding our Leadership Blue weekend, including conflicts with Pride Month, Juneteenth and Father’s Day events, which we all intended to honor over the weekend,” Diaz said. “Our timing was not ideal. We also recognize that in our fight for freedom and fairness, we can always do more. With that in mind, the Florida Democratic Party will be choosing new dates and locations to hold Leadership Blue. We will share information on the new arrangements once we have explored the options available.”
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Tensions revolve around HB 1557, dubbed by supporters the “Parental Rights in Education” Act and called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.
The legislation states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that does not is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards”.
LGBTQ rights organizations say the bill could discriminate against gay and transgender people and have a chilling effect on students even discussing their LGBTQ families.
Disney executives have been criticized by some employees for not taking a strong stance against the bill before it has already been approved by the Legislative Assembly. Company CEO Bob Chapek later spoke out against the legislation, saying he called Gov. Ron DeSantis “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender children and families”.
DeSantis has repeatedly criticized Disney since. Meanwhile, some company employees continue to push for a tougher response to the bill, such as halt donations to lawmakers who supported the measure, halt the relocation of workers to Florida, and halt new investment in the state until the law is repealed.
Gaskill said there’s “still a long way to go for Disney to regain the trust and loyalty of its LGBTQ+ employees and guests. We’re ready to work with them to get there.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only elected statewide Democrat and gubernatorial candidate, applauded the decision to move the fundraiser.
“I am grateful to President Diaz and the Florida Democratic Party for hearing us out, and I applaud their decision to choose new dates and location for the Leadership Blue Gala,” Fried said in a statement. “As the Party reminds us, ‘Democrats fight every day to build the Florida we deserve.’ For me, this also means our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the Disney employees who have had the courage to come out in protest. Again, I will always stand with the LGBTQ+ community.”
DeSantis said Tuesday that critics of HB 1557 support sexual instruction for young children.
“Understand, if you’re protesting this bill, you’re by definition in favor of injecting sexual instructions into 5, 6, and 7 year olds,” DeSantis said. “I think most people think it’s wrong. I think parents mostly think it’s wrong.
Follow Herald-Tribune political editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be contacted at [email protected]