Roy P. Disney, the grand-nephew of Disneyland founder Walt Disney, jumped Tuesday into the feud between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Disney empire with a fundraising plea in which he disclosed that he has a transgender child.
Mr. Disney, whose grandfather Roy O. Disney founded the company with his brother Walt, said in a fundraising pitch for the Human Rights Campaign that he was “heartbroken” over the Florida bill barring schools from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation with students in grades K-3.
“My wife, Sheri, and I have been members of HRC for over 20 years,” said Mr. Disney in the email. “Equality matters deeply to us, especially because our child, Charlee, is transgender and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.”
He offered to match gifts of up to $500,000 or more as part of a campaign to help raise $1 million for the HRC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, which reported on its tax forms contributions of $44.7 million in 2020.
“We were heartbroken when Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law in Florida,” Mr. Disney said. “The fight isn’t over, and we are determined to do everything we can to stop this from happening in other places.”
House Bill 1557, the bill signed March 28 by Mr. DeSantis, does not include the words “gay” or “transgender.”
“Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school, and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old,” Mr. DeSantis said.
The governor has sparred with the Walt Disney Co. over its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Bill, suggesting that the state could revisit the special self-governing status created in 1967 around the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando.
“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” Mr. DeSantis said last week at a press conference in West Palm Beach.
Mr. Disney said it was “simply despicable that state legislators and governors are using fear and lies to rally their base … trying to erase LGBTQ+ youth from school and sports, flat-out telling transgender and non-binary youth that they don’t belong, and revoking the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.”
He referred to bills passed in 13 states, including Florida, barring male-born athletes from competing in female sports.
It’s unclear how much clout Mr. Disney wields with the Walt Disney Co. He is not a member of the board of directors. His father, Roy E. Disney, was a longtime senior executive with the company who died in 2009.
HB 1557, which forbids schools from discussing sexuality and gender issues “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” takes effect July 1.
In a March 28 statement, the Walt Disney Co. said that its goal was to have the law “repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”
“We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country,” the statement said.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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