Former and current Disney employees supportive of the LGBTQ+ movement expressed outrage this week at their progressive employer's silence regarding a Florida bill that seeks to guide "age-appropriate discussions" of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
What are the details?
"If this bill was in place when I was growing up, I probably would not be here," a transgender former cast member at Walt Disney World told BuzzFeed News recently.
Another employee told the outlet that Disney's championing of diversity and inclusion "feels like virtue signaling when you're not willing to take a stand.”
"The magic has died for me," lamented another former cast member. "The little queer kid being beaten for being queer is crying and alone again."
Still another employee, a director of an unreleased Disney+ show who identifies as bisexual, said, "The blood and suffering of LGBTQIA+ children will be on Disney's hands thanks to their support of this life-altering bill. It breaks my heart."
Even the grand-niece of Walt Disney, Abigail Disney, got in on the action, tweeting, "The times for neutrality are long since over. That train has left the goddamn station. What is Disney for? Is it for pretending what America is about, or it is for defining a vision for a world in which fantasy, love, kindness, decency and loyalty are bedrock values."
What's the background?
The Parental Rights in Education bill — inaccurately dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by opponents and most national media outlets — was passed by the Florida Senate this week and will now move to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk to be signed into law.
The legislation specifically riles LGBTQ+ activists by prohibiting "classroom instruction" on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and teaching on the subject "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students" in higher grade levels.
The Republican-sponsored bill seeks to protect students and their parents from pressurized classroom instruction or indoctrination on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. But LGBTQ+ activists claim the legislation will only isolate vulnerable students and strip them of support systems at their schools.
Yet in the face of pressure from activists and employees, Disney CEO Bob Chapek has refused to take a stand against the bill. On the contrary, the chief executive recently shut down criticism over the company's neutral stance.
In a memo to staff on Monday, Chapek recalled meeting on Friday with "a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders" who wished to voice their "disappointment" at the company’s lack of a public statement. But according to the Los Angeles Times, he said in the memo that, despite being moved by their concerns, he was unpersuaded to issue a public statement condemning the bill.
Instead, he explained that corporate statements "do very little to change outcomes or minds" and instead are "often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame."
"Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change," Chapek reportedly wrote.
The CEO went on to suggest that Disney's artistic contributions are corporate statements in and of themselves and "are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort" at that.
"I firmly believe that our ability to tell such stories — and have them received with open eyes, ears, and hearts — would be diminished if our company were to become a political football in any debate," he added.
Apparently, Chapek's memo only served to further outrage some employees, the Times noted.
DeSantis is expected to sign the legislation into law sometime this summer.