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Disney Pledges $5 Million to LGBTQ Rights Following “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Controversy

CEO Bob Chapek is also meeting with Florida Gov. DeSantis to discuss his "concerns" with the bill

disney dont say gay bill
An LGTBQ solidarity rally in New York City, photo by Mathias Waski
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    The Walt Disney Company is pledging $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ+ organizations in light of Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Additionally, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced plans to meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to discuss the company’s concerns with the bill, Variety reports.

    The Parental Rights in Education bill, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prevents Florida educators from discussing issues of gender and sexuality in the classroom and allows parents to sue schools and teachers who do so. The bill has been passed by Florida’s House of Representatives and Senate, and DeSantis is expected to sign it into law.

    Disney’s donation comes after the company came under fire for not speaking out against the bill; the Orlando Sentinel even reported that the company donated money to all of the bill’s sponsors. Last week, Disney remained pretty mum on the issue, arguing that their values lie in the company’s content, not in directly political statements.

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    “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,” the company said in a statement.

    As backlash mounted, however, Chapek began walking back his original statements. In a company-wide memo sent Monday, March 7th, Chapek explained the company’s pro-bill donations. “While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation,” he said.

    On Wednesday, Chapek announced the $5 million donation and his plans to meet with DeSantis. “The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss the ways to address them,” Chapek added. “Gov. DeSantis committed to me that he wanted to make sure that this law could not be weaponized in any way by individuals in the state or groups in the state to unduly harm or target gay, lesbian, nonbinary or transgender kids and families.”

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    It’s pretty easy to imagine how a bill that prohibits discussing gay people could be weaponized against gay people, but Disney is on the case, apparently. Kate McKinnon raised the same concerns when she criticized the “Don’t Say Gay” bill on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live. “It just feels like this is gonna make kids gay and trans,” she said. “Sorry, depressed and suicidal.”

    Update: As of now, the Human Rights Campaign is unwilling to accept Disney’s donation. “The Human Rights Campaign will not accept this money from Disney until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill, don’t become dangerous laws,” Joni Madison, interim president of the HRC, said in a statement on Wednesday evening. “While Disney took a regrettable stance by choosing to stay silent amid political attacks against LGBTQ+ families in Florida — including hardworking families employed by Disney — today they took a step in the right direction. But it was merely the first step.”

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