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Operation Rescue plans to crash gays' Disney party

Protester and Mickey
Operation Rescue protesters plan to preach during Disney's annual Gay Pride Day  

In this story:

June 5, 1998
Web posted at: 8:46 p.m. EDT (0046 GMT)

From Correspondent Susan Candiotti

ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- For the past six years, homosexuals have celebrated Gay Pride Day at Walt Disney World, and Saturday they will do so again.

They plan no demonstrations, although many of them will wear red. As Stephen Brooks says, "Basically, it's fun."

But this year, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue says it plans to enter the park and preach -- one-on-one -- to gay men and women the virtues of the straight life.

"We need to say to them we need to choose Jesus over Mickey Mouse," says Christine O'Dell of Operation Rescue.

Disney protests
icon 2 min., 12 sec. VXtreme video

Disney has been targeted by the religious right in the past few years both for hiring gay men and women and for extending health benefits to same-sex partners.

"If we've got a company that is supposed to be about children and families openly embracing something that does nothing but tear families down, then we have a problem," says O'Dell.

But Paul Driver, who is gay and has been a Disney employee for 17 years, says, "I think we're broadening the definition of what a family is. It doesn't have to be a mother, father, two kids and a dog."

'There's nothing to be afraid of'

Driver and Brooks
Driver, left, and Brooks  

Brooks and Driver have been together more than a decade, and Driver both endorses and uses the company's domestic partner benefits.

And they say they don't intend to let Operation Rescue ruin their plans to enjoy Gay Pride Day.

"The best defense is a good offense," says Brooks. "We're going to be out there to show people there's nothing to be afraid of."

About 100,000 people attend Disney's parks in Orlando daily. On past Gay Pride Days, at least half of Disney's guests have been homosexuals.

Disney says it won't tolerate any confrontations Saturday.

"We're private property, and we can act on interruptions very quickly, and we intend to do so," says Disney spokesman Bill Warren.

Operation Rescue's leader was arrested during an Orlando anti-abortion demonstration this week. Disney says the same thing could happen to other protesters Saturday if they try to mix politics with Mickey Mouse.

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