Employees at Disney have staged a walkout to put pressure on the company to actively oppose a Florida bill that prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity instruction in primary schools. A small number of employees joined the walkout, with organizers accusing the company of “apathy” toward the bill.
Disney said it “stands in solidarity” with its LGBT cast, crew, guests, and fans in a statement. The Parental Rights in Education Bill is the official name of the bill. It’s been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.
The bill’s text does not use the term “gay” but it does prohibit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity with children under the age of ten or when “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards”
Although Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to sign it into law soon, it has drawn widespread criticism, including from the White House and Democratic allies.
Supporters of the bill say it will protect children from being exposed to topics in the classroom that their parents deem inappropriate, while critics say it will stigmatize and isolate LGBT youth.
Disney’s LGBT leaders have been pressuring the company to speak out against the bill, as the company is a major tourism draw in the state, attracting millions of visitors each year to its flagship Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It employs 77,000 Floridians as well.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek admitted in a memo to employees earlier this month that he was wrong to remain silent on the contentious bill, and said on Monday that the incident would serve as a catalyst for change at the company.
Disney has also agreed to halt donations to Florida legislators who support the bill. It said on Twitter on Tuesday that it is “committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form”
However, organizers of the walkout said in a statement that Disney’s recent actions “have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat” posed by the legislation to the LGBT community.
They want Disney to put a permanent halt to political donations and to all construction and investment in Florida until the legislation is repealed, among other things.
They started a week of 15-minute daily walkouts on Monday, with a day-long walkout planned for Tuesday. On Tuesday, social media posts showed a number of Disney employees leaving the company’s Burbank, California headquarters, though it’s unclear how widespread the walkout is.
ESPN, Hulu, and FX Networks, among other Disney brands, have issued statements expressing their support for LGBT colleagues, friends, and fans.
Following the employee backlash, Gov. DeSantis chastised Disney for opposing the bill, calling the company “woke” and accusing it of buying into “false narratives”