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Operation Rescue Protests Disney

TUESDAY, DEC. 30, 1997

About 75 people, some carrying signs that read “Choose Jesus over Mickey,” protested the Walt Disney Co.’s gay-friendly policies on Monday.

Most of the protest took place in Orlando outside the entrance to Disney World, with a smaller group picketing about eight miles away at an intersection on a busy tourist strip in Kissimmee.

Protesters there backed up traffic for about two miles, said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Carole Garcia.

“The conditions were very unsafe. There were verbal confrontations,” Garcia said. “The deputies warned them several times.”

Three people were arrested, including the leader of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, the Rev. Flip Benham. They were charged with obstructing public streets.

It was the first time Operation Rescue has publicly targeted Disney.

In May, leaders of the 15 million-member Southern Baptists voted to boycott Disney’s “anti-Christian and anti-family direction.”

Monday’s protesters, mostly young people attending a youth conference at a church in Palm Bay, about 55 miles to the east, listed many of the same reasons as the Southern Baptists did for their boycott: Disney’s granting of health benefits to same-sex partners of employees, allowing “Gay Days” at its theme parks and having Ellen DeGeneres, the star of the ABC show “Ellen,” come out as a homosexual. ABC is owned by Disney.

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