On the day that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades in his state, the Burbank-based Walt Disney Company Monday denounced the legislation and called for its repeal.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the `Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” according to a statement issued by Disney.
“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”
The legislation was officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill but has been denounced by the LGBTQ+ community as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
DeSantis, a Republican, has defended the legislation, saying it “showed a commitment to education, not to indoctrination.” On Monday, he said, “We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.”
Disney’s comments Monday were the company’s second in a week in support of the LGBTQ+ community — following statements last Tuesday over a company-wide employee walkout about Disney’s initial response to the Florida legislation.
Last week, various media divisions of Disney posted public statements in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We stand with our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, storytellers, families, friends and fans who are targeted by laws that marginalize and diminish their identities and lives,” a Twitter post by Disney-owned Hulu said. “We remain committed to telling inclusive stories that unite us and celebrate the diverse LGBTQIA+ community.”
Also last week, on the official Disneyland Instagram account, a statement was posted reading, “To ALL who come to this happy place, welcome. Disney Parks, Experiences and Products is committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form. We oppose any legislation that infringes on basic human rights, and stand in solidarity and support our LGBTQIA+ cast, crew and imagineers and fans who make their voices heard today and every day.”
Similar messages were posted on social media accounts of Disney+, Walt Disney World, ESPN and FX Networks — all Disney-owned.
Those messages came on the same day some Disney employees took part in a nationwide worker walkout. Dozens of protesters were seen marching along sidewalks outside Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, and similar events were planned at Disney properties across the country.
Disney and its CEO, Bob Chapek, had come under fire from critics over the company’s initial silence on the Florida legislation.
A letter attributed to “members of the LGBTQIA+ community” across Disney and Disney-owned entities and posted online earlier this month said the company’s response to the bill “utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.”
“Primarily, those statements have indicated that leadership still does not truly understand the impact this legislation is having not only on cast members in the state of Florida, but on all members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the company and beyond,” the letter states.
Chapek this month issued an apology to the LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging the “pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response” to the bill.
“Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was,” Chapek said in the statement. “It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”
He also said the company was immediately “increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states,” and announced that Disney was “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida.”
“I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community,” Chapek wrote. “I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”
The employees organizing the walkouts noted that Disney is in the process of moving roughly 2,000 workers from California to a new facility in Florida — home to the Walt Disney World resort.
“We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Florida, who will be directly harmed by this new law and yet still required to perform their duties for a company that not only failed to prevent, but also tacitly funded it,” according to the group’s letter. “This becomes especially concerning when you consider that TWDC is requiring even more employees to work and live in Florida, making even more cast members targets for this hateful law.”