Convention delegates vote to boycott

Delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to launch a boycott of the Walt Disney Co. and all its subsidiaries, including ABC TV.

The move was in response to what the representatives said were Disney’s “gay-friendly” policies, including extending health benefits to the partners of homosexual employees and allowing “Gay Days” organized by gay rights groups at its theme parks.

The group also cited the “coming out” episode of ABC’s “Ellen” in which the lead character announced she was a lesbian.

Disney responded to the decision with a terse written statement: “We are proud that the Disney brand creates more family entertainment of every kind than anyone else in the world. We plan to continue our leadership role and in fact we will increase production of family entertainment.”

With an estimated 15.7 million members, the Southern Baptists are the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. About 14,000 delegates participated in the sect’s annual meeting in Dallas. However, individual congregations are not bound by the convention’s actions.

Southern Baptists warned last June they would give Disney one year to respond to their objections, but leaders of the denomination said this week the multibillion-dollar entertainment company had simply increased its “anti-family, pro-gay” policies and programming.

Meanwhile, some gay and lesbian organizations have encouraged their members to show support for Disney. “We’ve urged people to thank Disney for their inclusiveness by supporting Disney products,” said Mark F. Johnson, media director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

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