Disney and its CEO, Bob Chapek, spoke out against the bill in an internal staff email but refused to publicly condemn it
Disney staff members this week and next are staging walkouts over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics have dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, was recently passed by Florida Republicans but has not yet been signed into law. The controversial bill bans all discussion of sexuality and gender identity in schools.
Disney and its CEO, Bob Chapek, spoke out against the bill last week in an internal staff email but refused to publicly condemn the bill, prompting the staged walkouts from employees.
Chapek said Disney’s leadership “unequivocally stand” with LGBTQ+ employees but said that corporate statements “do very little to change outcomes or minds”, adding that “they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame”.
Chapek’s statement sparked backlash within the company, which employs more than 75,000 staff members in Florida. Many condemned Chapek’s silence, to which he responded: “Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was.
“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” he said, adding that Disney will be “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida”.
Since then, Disney employees have been organizing 15-minute daily walkouts and “sickouts”, according to the Twitter page @DisneyWalkout launched in response to the bill. Staff members will stage a full-day walkout on 22 March.
In an open letter on the accompanying website, WhereIsChapek.com, Disney employees criticized Disney’s leadership, saying: “As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position. We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry.”
On Wednesday, Marvel Studios, which is owned by Disney, denounced the bill and said that it “proudly” stands with the community and pledged to continue its support and allyship.
The bill requires the implementation of “procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children”.
In addition to allowing parents to launch legal actions against school boards if they believe policies overstep that “fundamental right”, the bill bans teachers from discussing in classrooms LGBTQ+ topics “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.