Disney sidesteps calls to condemn Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill amid furious protests
Disney, known for its magical storytelling, has once again done the impossible: support LGBT+ rights while also donating to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Indeed, the Walt Disney Company issued a statement sidestepping the bill altogether that instead broadly in support of queer rights Friday (4 March).
The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill hurtling through the Florida legislature would ban school teachers from discussing LGBT+ identities in classrooms. Raising even more alarms were a series of amendments to SB 1834 that would effectively out students to their families.
If the Senate approves the bill, with a vote expected in the coming week, it will land on anti-LGBT+ governor Ron DeSantis‘ desk to be signed by the summer.
But many LGBT+ people felt especially stung when it emerged that Disney, among other corporations, had donated money to every single of the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Last year, at least three Disney entities cut cheques for the bill’s top sponsors around $4,000 combined for their 2022 re-election campaigns, the latest in countless corporate giants using fundraising arms to donate to Florida’s powerhouse Republican party supporting the bill.
The statement came as protests broke outside the Walt Disney World Resort on Wednesday organised by LGBT+ campaign group SAVE in an effort to pressure the company to oppose the bill.
Demonstraters walked across the sun-splashed highway carrying placards reading: “Disney Protect LGBTQ+ Kids,” “Disney Speak Out” and “Stand With LGBTQ+ Families”.
They stood outside one of the seven Disney World entrances, footage showed, with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse visible behind them.
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“@Disney, don’t delay, please stop funding anti-LGBTQ lawmakers supporting ‘don’t say gay’ – STOP the Don’t Say Gay bill!” the group wrote in an Instagram post.
In its Friday statement, Disney stopped short of either pulling funding to anti-LGBT+ lawmakers or to condemning the “Don’t Say Gay” bill outright, the company instead issued a statement.
“We understand how important this issue is to our LGBTQ+ employees and many others,” the Walt Disney Company said to Good Morning America.
NEW: Disney responds to protests and calls for action surrounding Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Bill, saying in part, "The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce."
“For nearly a century, Disney has been a unifying force that brings people together. We are determined that it remains a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
The statement continued: “The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here, and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community.”
Yet, CEO Bob Chapek has yet to make a personal statement outside of the official Disney company line. It was a stark contrast to Disney’s former chief, Bob Iger, who came out swinging in support after US president Joe Biden denounced the “hateful” bill on Twitter.
“I’m with the president on this!” he tweeted. “If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”
Disney insiders stressed, however, do not expect such words from Chapek anytime soon.
They told The Hollywood Reporter that Chapek had baulked at the opportunity to come out in solidarity with the LGBT+ community, instead preferring to keep Disney silent on such matters.
Disney declined to comment when pressed by The Hollywood Reporter on the legislation.
“Chapek is staunchly opposed to bringing Disney into issues he deems irrelevant to the company and its businesses,” the source claimed.
“Whatever Bob’s personal politics are, he’s not an activist and does not bring any partisan agenda to work,” a source alleged.
“He sees himself first and foremost as the custodian of a unifying brand that for nearly a century has been bringing people together, and he is determined that Disney remain a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
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