Disney apologises for “painful silence” on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

"You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down"

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has apologised to employees for his silence over Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which was passed earlier this week.

The Republican-led bill, formally known as Parental Rights in Education, bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade classes (aged 8-9). It argued that conversations around identity should be handled by parents, not schools.

The White House has called the legislation “hateful” and something which targets “vulnerable students”.

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Disney has been criticised for not speaking out against the bill. The company employs 77,000 people in Florida while their Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando attracts over 58million people every year.

Last week (March 7) Chapek sent out an email to staff, claiming “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds.”

“Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change,” he added, according to Deadline.

LGBTQIA+ employees at the Disney-owned studio Pixar then sent a letter to Disney, accusing the parent company of stepping back from public debate around “bigoted legislation” while continuing to profit from the LGBT community.

They also claimed that Disney has cut “nearly every moment of overtly gay affection” from its content “regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar”.

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Chapek then shared another letter yesterday (March 11) that reads: “Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.”

“Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. 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.”

On Wednesday (March 9), Chapek pledged a $5m (£3.8m) donation to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) LGBT advocacy group. However, the charity turned down the donation and called on the entertainment giant to take “meaningful action” against the bill.

Chapek has also promised more “support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation (to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill) in other states. We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values.”

“I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community,” he added. 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.”

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