The Walt Disney Co. claims to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community — but it has donated to the politicians behind Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” bill and apparently will continue to do so.
Meanwhile, a member of the Disney family, film producer Abigail Disney, is calling out the company for backing anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. “I could not be more unhappy with their political activities,” the great-niece of company founder Walt Disney tweeted this week.
The company, which has extensive operations in Florida including Disney World, has contributed to every sponsor and cosponsor of the legislation, the Orlando Sentinel reports. And it appears it will continue to fund them.
The bill would ban classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades where it is not “age-appropriate,” a rather vague definition, and opponents say it would harm LGBTQ+ students and teachers. It has been passed by the Florida House and is pending in the Senate. Gov. Ron DeSantis has signaled support for the measure, although not saying outright he would sign it.
Bob Iger, the former chairman and CEO of Disney, has denounced the legislation. Last week, he tweeted that he agreed with President Joe Biden’s description of it as “hateful.” But one of the replies to his tweet was “Call your boy Chapek,” referring to current CEO Bob Chapek, who has been less politically outspoken than Iger.
The company, however, is making political statements with its money. Nothing indicates it will stop supporting anti-LGBTQ+ Florida politicians, including Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley, who is sponsoring the “don’t say gay” bill in that chamber. Baxley has likened gay parents to parents who are alcoholics or drug abusers, and he has said, “I can’t affirm homosexuality.”
Disney issued a statement this week addressing the matter. “We understand how important this issue is to our LGBTQ+ employees and many others,” the company said. “For nearly a century, Disney has been a unifying force that brings people together. We are determined that it remains a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here, and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community.”
That content includes a few moments of LGBTQ+ representation in films and TV series, although they are mostly very brief. The company also hosts LGBTQ+ events at its theme parks, and they are well attended.
Latondra Newton, Disney’s chief diversity officer, sent a message to all 195,000 employees calling the Florida bill “deeply troubling and heartbreaking,” and saying Chapek wants “to meet with leaders in our company’s LGBTQ+ community to discuss how Disney can best support these important and valued employees and cast members,” The Hollywood Reporter notes. The company has scheduled meetings for March and April, with Chapek scheduled to participate in the latter. But he has yet to make a public statement on the Florida controversy.