Walt Disney Company employees staged a walkout on Tuesday over CEO Bob Chapek’s lukewarm response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which would ban gender identity classes and sexual orientation in elementary schools in one of the largest states in the country.
GOP Gov. Rick DeSantis has indicated he will soon sign the law, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Bill. It is a measure that LGBTQ+ activists and allies and mental health professionals have condemned as harmful to students, and represents only part of a larger wave of anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives in the states. right in recent months.
The bill would outright ban teaching about key issues with students in kindergarten through third grade and drastically reduce it in other grades. It also invites legal action if and when parents believe teachers have violated the new rules. And although Disney’s corporate executives have indicated the company opposes the legislation, they have come under fierce attack for not publicly resisting before it was too late.
Tuesday’s protest at multiple Disney locations across the country — and among various affiliates, including Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm — followed a week of smaller-scale walkouts during 15-minute afternoon breaks.
Outside Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, Calif., a CNBC producer captured video of a few dozen employees marching and chanting, “Say gay!” Say gay! »
Rebecca Perez, a Disney host behind Encanto, tweeted a group photo of the walkout with the words, “Supporting our colleagues in Florida and the LGBTQIA+ community. Solidarity.”
On their website, the walkout organizers are calling on Disney to permanently halt campaign donations to politicians supporting the bill, including DeSantis, who in recent days has called Disney a “woke society.” According to Newsweek, Disney and its companies donated at least $250,000 to Republican senators who voted to pass the legislation, but the company also became a right-wing punching bag when it pushed back against the measure. .
DeSantis, for his part, went out of his way to target trans people on Tuesday, issuing an official proclamation that claimed to erase elite athlete Lia Thomas’ NCAA swimming victory.
“Onyx Collective” on Hulu. (A problem the company faces: A prominent LGBTQ+ group, the Human Rights Campaign, previously turned down a donation from Disney over its handling of the legislation, as the New York Times reported.)
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday’s walkouts.
A Los Angeles-based Disney designer told The Daily Beast he was “thrilled” by the widespread support for the employee walkout.
He wondered why Disney hadn’t taken a tougher stance on the Florida legislation, when in 2016 the company threatened to boycott the state of Georgia over an anti-terrorist bill. LGBTQ that would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to people who don’t. t follow their “sincere religious belief”.
“The bill is drafted loosely enough that some school systems can tailor their individual policies based on the strongest voices in their community,” said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about LGBTQ parent rights,” the employee said. “What about parents who have gay children or trans children? What about the Disney employees who were recently forced to relocate to Florida…. I wondered why the company asks certain families who are in a vulnerable position to potentially relocate to communities that might not be supportive.
“It is difficult to quantify how many people this will affect,” he added, “but it will unnecessarily affect many people.”
The employee said the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is the most pressing issue to address, but Disney still has some way to go when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in its staff and storylines. shows and movies.
“I personally know it’s about wanting to ask our leaders to help nip this in the bud,” the bill’s designer said. “Because what about the next piece of legislation that comes on the table? I can’t help but think this is a testing ground to see what the LGBTQ community as a whole will put up with. If we give in here and now, what’s the next thing the Tories are going to try to force us to be ‘comfortable’ with?”
Chapek’s stance on the bill sparked internal anger when, in a March 7 memo obtained by the Hollywood journalist, he argued that “corporate statements do very little to change results or minds.” Instead, he suggested, the company’s best way to influence audiences was “through the inspirational content we produce.”
A few days later, Chapek apologized to LGBTQ+ employees in an email, saying, “Talking to you, reading your messages and meeting you helped me better understand how painful our silence was.” The message, obtained by rolling stone, added: “It is clear that this is not just a problem concerning a bill in Florida, but rather 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 apologize.”
Employees also joined a planned “social media storm” on Tuesday, with many tweeting why the day-long protest was important to them.
Actress Raven-Symoné posted a video on Instagram stating that she and the Disney Channel cast The Raven’s House also left the set. She called the legislation “ridiculous” and said: “We don’t like it. We go out.
Disney+ actor Oscar Isaac Moon Knight series shared their own take on the walkouts. Variety reported that, during a virtual press conference, he said: “I guess my comment would be [starts singing] gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gay gayyyyyy! Yes, this is an absolutely ridiculous law. It’s crazy. This is madness. And I hope that Disney as a company will oppose this idea as strongly as possible. It’s amazing that it even exists in this country.
The backlash over “Don’t Say Gay” and Disney’s failure to prevent the bill from passing aren’t its only public relations issues.
Last Friday, the company apologized for a Texas high school dance performance, which was replete with Native American stereotypes, at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
The drill crew, called the “Indianettes,” had chanted “Scalp ’em, Indians, scalp ’em” during the show at the resort’s Magic Kingdom park.
Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said the racist dance “did not reflect our core values, and we regret that it took place.” The performance, Wahler added, did not match the audition tape the school sent to Magic Kingdom employees.