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Disney’s Health Plan for Gays Blasted

Thursday Aug 9, 2007

A group of state lawmakers have denounced Walt Disney Co. for extending health insurance to partners of gay and lesbian employees and asked the entertainment giant to reconsider.

In a letter to Disney chairman Michael Eisner and its board of directors, 15 legislators said the move was "a big mistake both morally and financially" that would alienate their family- oriented base of customers.

"We wonder what Walt Disney himself would think of your decision if he were alive today?" asks the letter sent last week. "We are inclined to believe he would be quick to pull the plug on such anti-family company policies."

The company told its 70,000 employees earlier this month that it would offer health benefits to live-in partners of homosexual employees, as well as their dependent children. The new policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, will not cover live-in heterosexual partners.

The decision has been criticized by family-values groups and applauded by gay-rights activists.

Disney, however, has no intention of changing its decision, said John Dreyer, vice president of corporate communications at company headquarters in Burbank, Calif. He said it is consistent with the company's policy against discrimination based on race or sexual preference.

"This is about providing health benefits for our employees and nothing more, " Dreyer said Wednesday. "'When we get the letter, we'll decide how to respond to them, but we won't do it through the media."

Dreyer would not say why the policy did not include live-in heterosexual partners.

Disney's decision is a significant step in the right direction but should extend to all domestic partners, said Beth Barrett, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

She said the lawmakers' letter was "yet another example of the well-organized and well-financed right-wing element of our society who lash out at any individual or group choosing to recognize the realities of the modern world and the modern American family."

The letter was drafted by the Florida Family Council of Tampa at the request of Rep. Bob Brooks, R-Winter Park, and other lawmakers. The organization this week distributed copies of the letter on Florida House of Representatives letterhead to more than 160 newspapers.

It said Disney's decision belittles "the sanctity of marriage" and endorses "a lifestyle that is unhealthy, unnatural and unworthy of special treatment."

Fourteen of the lawmakers who signed are Republicans. Rep. Everett Kelly of Tavares was the only Democrat. These Republicans also signed the letter:

Republican Reps. Randy Ball of Titusville, Jerry Burroughs of Cantonment, Marvin Couch of Oviedo, Jim Fuller and Stephen Wise of Jacksonville, Carlos Lacasa of Miami, Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie, Bob Starks of Casselberry, John Thrasher of Orange Park, Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, Mark Flanagan of Bradenton and Buddy Johnson of Plant City; and Sen. John Grant of Tampa.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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