After a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, the Walt Disney Co DIS has reintroduced the Gay Days festivities at its Orlando theme parks, with events beginning today and running through June 5.
What Happened: Gay Days traditionally takes place during the first weekend of June. Although it is not officially sponsored by Disney, travel organizations aggressively market the event to the LGBTQ community.
The first Gay Day occurred in June 1991 and attracted 3,000 visitors who self-identified as attendees by wearing red shirts. The festivities evolved over time and has incorporated happenings outside of the Disney sphere, including events held at the rival Universal Studios Orlando owned by Comcast Corporation CMCSA and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.'s SEAS SeaWorld Orlando theme park.
This year’s Gay Days is taking place amid the highly contentious feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who severely criticized the company for opposing the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation prohibiting classes in sexual identity and orientation for children in kindergarten through third grade. DeSantis also coordinated a new bill that would dismantle the special tax district that Disney has operated since 1967.
It is unclear whether the political controversy and Disney’s handling of the “Don’t Say Gay” issue — the company initially tried to avoid taking public sides and then switched gears to call for the voiding of the new law — will impact attendance at this year’s Gay Days festivities. The company has not issued a public comment acknowledging Gay Days’ return to its Orlando venues.
What Else Happened: According to the Orlando Sentinel, Disney purchased an advertisement in the official magazine for the Gay Days observances that includes photographs of a person wearing rainbow Mickey ears and LGBTQ couples enjoying the parks.
Beyond Gay Days, Disney is observing June’s LGBTQ Pride Month with a $100,000 donation to the Zebra Coalition, a nonprofit focused on helping LGTBQ youth.
“During Pride Month and throughout the year, we want everyone at Walt Disney World Resort to feel seen and celebrated not only because of the environment we create, but also because of our meaningful contributions to the community,” said Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger.
Separate from Gay Days, Disney introduced the Pride Collection, a collection of branded apparel and toys collection. According to the Los Angeles Times, profits from the collection’s sales will be donated the LGBTQ advocacy groups.
A company spokesperson said the Pride Collection was created by Disney’s LGBTQ employees and their allies and is a “reflection of their incredible contributions and place at the heart of the company.”
Photo: Courtesy DisneyParks' Instagram page
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