Dalila Ali Rajah
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Disney CEO Apologizes for Response to Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Bob Chapek and Ron DeSantis

The Walt Disney Co. is pausing all political donations in Florida, and CEO Bob Chapek is apologizing to employees for its response to the state’s infamous “don’t say gay” bill, as Disney had donated to all of its sponsors and cosponsors.

“Thank you to all who have reached out to me sharing your pain, frustration and sadness over the company’s response to the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Chapek wrote in a memo to employees Friday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was. It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet 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 am sorry.”

The bill, formally titled Parental Rights in Education, has been passed by both the Florida House and Senate, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it into law. It would prohibit instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and in higher grades if the handling is not “age-appropriate.” Opponents say it will further marginalize LGBTQ+ students and staff.

Disney, a major employer in Florida, had contributed to both the bill’s supporters and opponents. Chapek and the company had been criticized for the donations as well as for lack of public response to the legislation. Chapek had said earlier that company officials felt they could be more effective working behind the scenes and that the best way Disney could support the LGBTQ+ community was through inclusive content (although some employees have pointed out that the content is not all that inclusive). That didn’t satisfy Disney employees, and he then pledged to reassess the company’s political contributionsmake donations to LGBTQ+ rights groups, and meet with DeSantis. One such group, the Human Rights Campaign, has refused to accept Disney’s money until the company takes stronger action.

In Friday’s memo, Chapek said Disney had fallen short and will take further action. “Starting immediately, we are increasing our support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states,” he said. “We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values. And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review. But, I know there is so much more work to be done. I am committed to this work and to you all, and will continue to engage with the LGBTQ+ community so that I can become a better ally. You will hear more about our progress in the coming weeks.

“I truly believe we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community. I missed the mark in this case but am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”

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