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Disney Vows to Help Repeal Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Legislation

Chopek and DeSantis
Disney CEO Bob Chapek (L) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

The company has previously faced criticism over its tepid initial response to the legislation.

After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the "don't say gay" bill this morning, the Walt Disney Company was quick to release a statement vowing to help repeal the contentious law.

"Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'don't say gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," the statement reads, according to Variety. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."

Initially, Disney CEO Bob Chapek caused a stir by tacitly speaking out against the bill. When employees demanded more Chapek did issue a public statement, which claimed the "biggest impact" Disney can make "in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content" it produces. However, the comments sparked outrage for what some employees felt was a soft stance on the issue.

During a shareholders meeting soon after, Chapek announced the company would pledge $5 million to LGBTQ+ rights organizations. He also said he would meet with DeSantis to discuss Disney's "concerns" over the bill.

Chapek also issued an apology about how the company handled the "don't say gay" backlash. "It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights," Chapek wrote in a staff memo distributed by Disney last week. "You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry."

Employees of the company pressed for more action and eventually walked out in protest of the bill.

The legislation passed Monday is officially entitled "Parental Rights in Education," and the states that "classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." In addition, in another section the law mandates that parents are informed about any changes with their children that could impact their mental, physical, or emotional health or well-being. This is regardless of whether school officials believe such disclosure could lead to abuse.

In response to DeSantis signing the bill into law, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a statement condemning the law.

"By signing this bill, Gov. DeSantis has chosen to target some of Florida's most vulnerable students and families, all while under the guise of 'parents' rights.' Make no mistake: this is a part of a disturbing and dangerous trend across the country of legislation targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals," Cardona said. "This comes at a time when we know lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning students are three to four times more likely than non-LGBTQI+ students to report experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and even self harm - not because of who they are but because of the hostility directed at them."

Cardona added that he had spoken to parents and families in Florida who he says do not support the law.

"Instead of telling some students or families it's not okay to be who they are, our Department is fighting for dignity and opportunity for every student and family," he said. "And, we will be monitoring this law upon implementation to evaluate whether it violates federal civil rights law. As always, any student who believes they are experiencing discrimination, including harassment, at school or any parent who is concerned that about their child experiencing discrimination can file a complaint with our Office for Civil Rights."

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