Disney’s Response To Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Becoming Law Is A Big Shift
The move follows public outcry and a walkout by some Disney employees.
The Walt Disney company is finally taking a stand for the LGBTQ+ community. After Florida governor Gov. Ron DeSantis signed what’s become known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law on March 28, the company took its boldest stance yet against the legislation. Between condemning the legislation and vowing to help repeal the law, Disney’s March 28 response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a big shift from its initial silence, and previous statements on the matter.
Commonly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education was passed by Florida Senate on March 8, and signed into law 20 days later. The bill, which also encompasses mental health for kids, states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in.” While supporters say they don’t want young children taught about sexuality, critics note that the vague wording could ban anything from lessons including LGBTQ+ people to mention of students’ own families, as well as encourage harmful rhetoric marginalizing people in LGBTQ+ communities by banning discussion on the subject.
Following weeks of silence and statements dancing around the subject, a Walt Disney Company spokesperson released a March 28 statement criticizing the law. The spokesperson said, in part, “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. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” Elite Daily reached out to a Disney spokesperson for further comment on the company’s efforts to assist in repealing the law, but did not hear back at the time of publication.
While the statement didn’t detail how Disney plans to “[support] the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the company spokesperson added that Disney is “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 March 28 statement is a shift since the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was introduced on Jan. 11. Walt Disney Company, which of course includes Florida-based Disney World, remained quiet about the legislation up until March 7, when Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek sent out a companywide email, stating that Disney can make the “biggest impact” through the “inspiring content” it produces. The response wasn’t well received, with employees and fans saying the silence was in opposition of what the company claims to stand for, including being a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. Chapek released another statement on March 11 in response to the criticism, writing, “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.”
Though Chapek announced that the company would be increasing its support for “advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states,” many Disney employees felt the response was still not enough: To protest the law, hundreds of employees staged a walk out at the Walt Disney company’s headquarters in Burbank, California, on March 22.
The company didn’t name the walkouts and backlash as reasons for Walt Disney Company’s shifting stance on the matter, but even so, the company’s March 28 statement is its strongest condemnation of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.