DeSantis Strips Disney of Self-Governing Status in Response to Feud Over “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

In August 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis found himself in an unlikely feud with Walt Disney Company. The entertainment giant had publicly denounced his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which, in part, prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to children younger than third grade, and had pledged to stop giving money to Florida politicians and candidates who supported it. In response, DeSantis signed a bill that strips Disney of its self-governing status in the Reedy Creek Improvement District last Monday, February 27, 2023.[0]

According to this bill, no instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity can be offered to kindergarten through grade 3 students by school personnel or third parties unless it is appropriate for their age and development level, as stated by state standards.

DeSantis’ board of directors over the Reedy Creek area is composed of mostly political allies and donors. The board’s new chairman is Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer and business owner, whose Pinehill Capital partners donated $50,000 to DeSantis’ political committee.[1] Other board members include Bridget Ziegler, a conservative member of the Sarasota County School Board and co-founder of Moms for Liberty; Mike Sasso, an attorney who donated to Florida Republican candidates, including DeSantis; Brian Aungst Jr., a Central Florida attorney; and Ron Peri, who founded the ministry “The Gathering,” which regularly spews nonsense about “Christian Nationalism.”[2]

DeSantis’ feud with Disney began when its CEO Bob Chapek criticized DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill as a “challenge to basic human rights.”[3] Chapek called DeSantis to ask for advice on how the company should respond.[4] DeSantis advised Chapek not to get involved, warning that people would ask why Disney had never said anything about China, where it makes a fortune.[5]

DeSantis has indicated that the new board members want to see Disney be “what Walt envisioned” and have spoken out against Disney’s programming.[6] Disney has not responded to a request for comment.[7]

0. “Ron DeSantis reveals in memoir his one condition for getting married at Disney World” FOX 35 Orlando, 1 Mar. 2023,

1. “DeSantis appoints political backers to new Disney oversight board” POLITICO, 27 Feb. 2023,

2. “DeSantis Disney oversight board features ‘combustible mix’ of culture warriors: Expert” Yahoo News, 1 Mar. 2023,

3. “DeSantis had one condition for getting married at Disney World” Business Insider, 28 Feb. 2023,

4. “DeSantis Stacks New Disney Oversight Board With His Donor Pals” The Daily Beast, 27 Feb. 2023,

5. “DeSantis told ex-Disney CEO Bob Chapek to stay out of Florida’s fight over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, book says” CNBC, 27 Feb. 2023,

6. “DeSantis Hopes Reedy Creek Board Appointees Will Help Disney Bring ‘Entertainment All Families Can Appreciate'” WDW News Today, 1 Mar. 2023,

7. “Florida governor ends ‘corporate kingdom’ of Walt Disney World” Al Jazeera English, 27 Feb. 2023,

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