While Disney has backtracked on its initially neutral stance on Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, the parent company of rival Universal theme parks, Comcast, has not commented on its support of the bill’s sponsors.
The bill, which is supported by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, would forbid “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in public schools from kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Charlton Copeland, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law who writes about sexual orientation and gender identity, told NBC News this language may lead to teachers fearing lawsuits for discussing topics like same-sex marriage or AIDS in their classrooms. DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw, however, responded to criticisms of the bill by comparing opponents of the proposal to pedophiles who “groom” underage children.
Comcast, which has owned the Universal Orlando Resort since 2011, has donated $28,000 to the bill’s sponsors, according to Popular Information, a newsletter written by liberal journalist Jedd Legum. That includes a pair of $1,000 donations in 2021 to the bill’s chief sponsors, Florida State Sen. Dennis Baxley and Florida State Rep. Joe Harding, both Republicans.
That’s a fraction of the $249,000 Disney donated to the Florida legislators who voted for “Don’t Say Gay.” Unlike Disney – which has faced negative headlines and employee protests over its previous support for the sponsors – Comcast has largely escaped public scrutiny over its own donations.
Theme Park Tribune sent multiple requests for comment to Comcast and Universal Orlando since March 8 asking for the company’s stance on the legislation and whether it would lead to any changes in its political donations. None of those emails have so far been returned.
When asked about Comcast’s silence on the bill, Nadine Smith, executive director of LGTBQ+ rights group Equality Florida, said in an email to Theme Park Tribune, “This is a gut-check moment for every CEO who complained in private but feared standing up for their values and their employees who are dehumanized by this slate of bills that curb free speech, propagandize school curriculums, and monitor classroom conversations, private workplaces, and doctor’s offices. Silence is complicity and in that silence, companies have failed their employees and customers who believed all those values statements were more than marketing materials.”
Like Disney, Universal Orlando claims to be supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, selling “Love is Universal” merchandise during Pride Month. A 2018 Universal blog post promoted a panel discussion during Pride Month that spoke of Universal Orlando as a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ visitors and employees.