Gay hiking

The Hypocrisy of Disney’s Response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

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Bob Chapeck, The New York Times wrote this week, needed to get out of “a crisis of his own making.” It’s been a long week for the Disney CEO. He began by sending a memo to his staff on Monday stating that while he and the management team support LGTBQ+ employees and communities, the company would not issue a public statement condemning the so-called “Don ‘t Say Bill “Gay” in Florida, where he is a major employer.Many of those who work for Disney, as well as Walt Disney’s own great-niece, weren’t happy.

Then on Tuesday, the Florida legislature passed the measure, which restricts discussions of gender and sexuality in elementary schools. The outcry continued until Wednesday, when Chapek flip-flopped at the company’s shareholder meeting, saying: “Our novel approach, however well-intentioned, has not quite does the job.” Disney was now opposed to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

There is a bit of history here. Prior to the adoption of the bill, the Orlando Sentinel reported in late February that Disney had donated money to each of its sponsors and co-sponsors. When this led LGBTQ advocates to appeal for a statement from Disney on its position, Chapek sent this memo Monday to his employees, saying that “corporate statements do very little to change results or minds” – and adding that Disney, instead, could cause change “thanks to the inspiring content we produce.”

The employees were not satisfied with Chapek’s response. The owl house designer Dana Terrace posted a video on Twitter saying, “I hate having moral dilemmas about how I feed myself and how I support my loved ones.” duck tales writer Benjamin Siemon tweeted“I still can’t describe how much the LGBTQ+ employee community at Disney is suffering today. We are devastated. The hashtag #BoycottDisney has become trending.

Walt Disney’s great-niece, Abigail Disney, also dealt a heavy blow, saying Chapek was “more concerned about the right-wing backlash” than Disney staff and fans. “The time for neutrality is long gone” she wrote. “What is Disney for? Is it to pretend what America is, or is it to define a vision of a world in which fantasy, love, kindness, decency and loyalty are core values? Nothing in the “don’t say gay” bill or Chapek’s memo is consistent with any of those values.

Backlash aside, Chapek’s claims didn’t make much sense. He said big business statements don’t have much impact and that Disney could create that impact through its content. (That was also a little hypocritical; Disney had has made statements about gay rights before, as she did in 2016 when the company threatened to stop filming in Georgia if the state passes a bill allowing institutions to deny services and jobs to LGBTQ+ people for “denominational” reasons. The measure was ultimately opposed by the governor.)