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Disney workers protest the company's response to the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Disney workers are protesting their employer. Disney World, of course, is one of Florida's iconic businesses. And the workers want the company to more strongly oppose a new Florida law, which limits classroom instruction about gender identity and sexuality. Here's Danielle Prieur of WMFE.

DANIELLE PRIEUR, BYLINE: Disney theme park worker Nicholas Maleonau was one of the first protesters outside Disney World on Tuesday. He held a sign that read, trans rights are human rights. The wind whipped a rainbow flag he wore as a cape.

NICHOLAS MALEONAU: I am proud to be out here. And I'm proud to be part of the community that is represented here in Disney World.

PRIEUR: He says he loves working at Disney. And most of his colleagues feel the same way.

MALEONAU: Because, I mean, I've never met so many wonderful people that love the Disney brand so much.

PRIEUR: But he's worried about the impact of what opponents call the Don't Say Gay bill will have on gay people in the state, including himself and his fiance, who are both bisexual. The Parental Rights in Education bill, which is awaiting Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' signature before it can become law, would limit conversations about gender identity and sexuality in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. It would also restrict these same discussions in older grades if they were considered, quote, "age inappropriate." Many activists think that it took Disney CEO Bob Chapek too long to oppose the bill, which has sparked weeks of walkouts at the company's theme parks in Orlando and California. In a statement posted to the Disney Parks Facebook account the morning of the walkout, the company says it supports LGBTQIA+ cast, crew and fans every day, including today. But at a press conference, Governor DeSantis says Disney simply bought into false narratives about what the bill actually does and has this message for protesters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: If you are out protesting this bill, you are, by definition, putting yourself in favor of injecting sexual instruction to 5, 6 and 7-year-old kids. I think most people think that's wrong. I think parents especially think that's wrong.

PRIEUR: DeSantis says he plans on signing the bill into law soon.

For NPR News, I'm Danielle Prieur in Orlando.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT CARLSON'S "IT'S A SMALL WORLD (INSTRUMENTAL VERSION)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Prieur

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