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Disney won’t send 2000 high-paying jobs to Florida this year. Is it because of “Don’t Say Gay”?

Mickey Mouse icon with gay rainbow flag design at the annual gay pride march in central London
Photo: Shutterstock

The Walt Disney Co. has delayed the relocation of 2000 employees from California to Florida amid fallout from the state’s Don’t Say Gay law, which resulted in Florida Republicans ending Disney World’s self-governance agreement with the state.

“These culture wars have an economic cost,” Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) of Orlando.

Related: States may make it harder for LGBTQ people to start families if the Supreme Court overturns Roe

A Disney spokesperson said Wednesday the expected opening date for the company’s new Lake Nona campus, which would accommodate members of Disney’s Imagineering team, was pushed to 2026. The delay is intended to “give people more time” and accommodate the construction timeline for the new offices, said Jacquee Wahler.

The new campus was originally slated to open in Orlando in December 2022.

The announcement comes after months of tension between Disney and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, enacted in March. The law prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and in higher grades whenever such lessons are not considered “developmentally appropriate.”

LGBTQ inclusion, don't say gay bills, no promo homo

Eskamani said Disney’s decision was a direct result of the Don’t Say Gay law.

Disney was poised to receive tax breaks totaling over $570 million by moving more than 2,000 jobs in its Parks, Experiences and Products division to Lake Nona. The average salary for the relocating positions is $120,000, totaling over $240 million in potentially lost revenue for the Orlando area.

“We’ve made the point all along, during debate on this bill, that attacking LGBTQ+ people… is not only just bad politics or ‘culture wars,’ but it’s bad for the economy,” Eskamani said.

DeSantis signed the bill into law March 28, following months of growing outrage over the bill’s anti-LGBTQ bias. Disney CEO Bob Chapek, after trying to avoid a confrontation with the governor and following massive protests from Disney employees, came out squarely against the law the same day.

DeSantis followed up with politically-motivated retribution, signing laws to dissolve Disney’s self-governing status and voiding the company’s exemption under a controversial new Big Tech censorship law. An appeals court recently ruled key provisions of that law are unconstitutional.

The Don’t Say Gay law “might be good for DeSantis’ base,” added Eskamani, “but at the end of the day, top talent does not want to call a state that supports these policies home. And so this is absolutely an illustration of that point that we’ve been making this entire time.”

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