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Group to Target Gays at Disney World

May 29, 1998| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Operation Rescue, a confrontational anti-abortion, anti-gay group, will protest inside Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom during an annual gay celebration at the Florida theme park in June, the group's leader said Wednesday.

"We'll probably just let Orlando be a living parable of the battle we're fighting," the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham said, accusing the Walt Disney Co. of promoting homosexuality.

The Gay Days revelry, which is not organized by Disney, has taken place since 1991. Disneyland in Anaheim attracts similar celebrations organized by gay and lesbian groups.

In a telephone interview from his Garland, Texas, home, Benham said his group has no immediate plans to protest in Anaheim, but wouldn't rule it out in the future.

Conservative groups in recent years have protested Disney's toleration of the gay parties at its theme parks, its extension of health benefits to partners of gay employees, and the airing of "Ellen," with an openly lesbian lead character, by Disney's ABC-TV unit. The series was recently canceled.

"They are promoting a homosexual lifestyle," Benham said. "For some reason, Mickey Mouse and the face behind the mouse, Michael Eisner, have chosen to pick a fight with God. Why is beyond me."

"Obviously, we deny that," Disney spokesman Tom Deegan said, "We are promoting no agenda, except the enjoyment of all our guests. We are entertainers, not politicians."

More than 100,000 gay and lesbian tourists plan to visit Orlando the first weekend of June for a three-day celebration at several of the area's theme parks.

"They'll get the same thing inside the park that they get when they show up at the abortion clinics," Benham said.

Operation Rescue is known for heated protests at abortion clinics.

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