The Walt Disney Company is sending mixed signals after announcing on March 29 that Disney+, the company’s subscription based streaming service, will be launched in 42 currently unserviced areas in Europe, Asia and West Africa starting this May, however many of the regions Disney plans to expand to enforce strict anti-gay laws.
On the list of countries the company plans to expand to are Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen, all countries that outlaw homosexuality.
The announcement is causing some confusion after the company came out in stark opposition to Florida’s recently enacted Parental Rights in Education bill which “prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade and prohibits instruction that is not age appropriate for students and requires school districts to adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.”
Following Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing the bill into law on March 28, the Walt Disney Company condemned the legislation and promised to help repeal it.
In a statement the company said, “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”
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In many of the countries Disney plans to expand to same-sex activity is punishable with lengthy prison sentences, hard labor, fines and even death.
In Saudi Arabia for example, homosexuals and transgender individuals face punishments ranging from fines and chemical castration to death.
Also, according to a report by Fox Business on Disney Cruise Lines, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, the company is offering Southern Caribbean cruises, starting at $3,870 per person to Antigua, Dominica and St. Maarten.
In Antiqua, homosexual behavior carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and in Dominica members of the community face up to 10 years in prison for same-sex sexual activity. Both countries don’t have any laws on the books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In St. Maarten, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, same-sex marriage is not legal and same-sex couples are barred from being married on the island.
Disney faces backlash
Disney’s public opposition to the new legislation came after CEO Bob Chapek came under fire for not speaking up ahead of the bill being signed into law.
Disney employees staged a walkout in protest of the company’s initial inaction prompting the company to rush to “make amends” with its staff and the LGBTQA+ community, CNBC reported.
The company vowed to donate $5 million to organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, that works to protect LGTBQ+ rights.
Governor Ron DeSantis arguing for the Parental Rights in Education bill said, “Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children,” adding that, “Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their children at school, and should be protected from schools using classrooms instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez said that the “Parental Rights in Education [bill] empowers Florida’s parents and safeguards our children,” asserting “This bill refuses to allow school boards and teachers unions the ability to hide information about students from their parents.”