Disney Issues Statement Regarding Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

A bill that has drawn a lot of criticism in Florida is currently making its way through Florida’s legislative system.

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What bill is it? What criticism has it drawn? And where does Disney stand in all of this? We’re breaking it down here for you.

A Bit of Background

First, let’s share a little bit of background surrounding the situation in Florida. As The Hollywood Reporter shares, on February 25th the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The Hill reports that the bill is now set to go before the Florida Senate on Monday.

The bill’s official name is the “Parental Rights in Education bill.” If passed, the bill would “prohibit primary school educators from engaging in discussions related to sexual orientation or gender identity.” The Hill shares that the bill would “restrict mention of LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms that are not ‘age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.’”

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Under the bill, parents would also be given “greater authority to take legal action against school districts believed to be in violation.”

Disney’s Response

According to Good Morning America, Disney has issued a statement regarding the bill. In the statement, Disney notes that they “understand how important this issue is to [their] LGBTQ+ employees and many others.” Disney goes on to say that 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.”

According to Disney, they feel that the biggest impact they can have in “creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content [they] produce, the welcoming culture [they] create here and the diverse community organizations [they] support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community.”

More About the Bill

Looking to learn more about the Bill, what proponents and critics say, and what criticisms have been raised about Disney? See more below.

The Bill

The full text of the Bill and its history can be found by visiting The Florida Senate’s website. The following is based off the PDF version listed on the site. One section of that version of the Bill notes, “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.”

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The Bill also notes that “A school district may not adopt procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or a change in related services or monitoring, or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information.”

The Bill goes on to say, “School district personnel may not discourage or prohibit parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being. This subparagraph does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect, as those terms are defined in s. 39.01.”

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This is just a snippet of the bill. You can read more here.

What Proponents and Critics Say

Proponents of the Bill, according to The Hill, say it is “merely designed to strengthen the rights of parents and give them a larger voice in the child’s education.” According to Good Morning America, Representative Joe Harding has defended the Bill, saying that it would ban curriculum and lessons but “would not prohibit people from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation.” ClickOrlando.com said that State Senator Dennis Baxley, who wrote the bill, has indicated that what they are trying to do is “empower parents to take responsibility for their children.” But, some disagree.

The Bill has received heavy criticism from a number of individuals and groups, including the President of the United States. According to Good Morning America, LGBTQ advocates have said that the bill will “harm queer youth by shunning representation and inclusion from classrooms.” They also say that by erasing the presence of LGBTQ from lessons, it implies that “students should be ashamed or suppress their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

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Amit Paley, the CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said, “When lawmakers treat LGBTQ topics as taboo and brand our community as unfit for the classroom, it only adds to the existing stigma and discrimination, which puts LGBTQ young people at greater risk for bullying, depression, and suicide.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Florida’s bill has been “denounced by stars and a wave of LGBTQ advocates and nonprofits.” And some Florida students even walked out of class in protest of the Bill, according to The Hill.

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ClickOrlando.com reported that Michael Kahane, from the AHF Foundation, said, “Kids need a safe space to discuss issues that they are going through, and if for whatever reason they don’t feel safe talking to their parents, they need to a trusted teacher or a counselor.” Orange County Commissioner Patty Sheehan shared, “I’ve seen some of the stuff on social media where they say we are indoctrinating children…No we are not. We’re teaching children that decency and accepting people who are different is a good thing.”

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Some have also criticized the bill’s language. In a commentary piece written by Scott Maxwell for The Orlando Sentinel, Maxwell notes that the bill uses subjective phrases to set standards for “certain grade levels,” without defining what the levels are. According to the Orlando Sentinel, over 115 physicians from Florida have also shared that the bill would “endanger the safety of LGBTQ children.”

Criticism on Disney’s Previous Lack of Response

Aside from criticism of the Bill itself, some have been critical of Disney’s lack of a response (before they issued the statement discussed above). ClickOrlando.com previously reported that hundreds of people had gathered in front of the Disney sign, calling on Disney to “take a stand” against the Bill. There were reportedly over 200 people asking for Disney to take action. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation actually held 2 rallies on this issue — one in Florida and another in California.

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation has also created an ad that was being played in the Orlando area. This ad specifically called out to Disney for a response.

Criticism Regarding Disney’s Donation Activities

Others have focused their criticism not (just) on Disney’s lack of response, but (also) on Disney’s donation activity to legislators in Florida who have supported this bill. According to ClickOrlando.com, State Senator Dennis Baxley (who wrote the Bill), “said the company has backed his campaign, saying Disney has ‘a world of interests on a variety of topics.’”

In a commentary piece written by Scott Maxwell for The Orlando Sentinel, Maxwell notes that “Disney has given money to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of this year’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.” But, according to Maxwell, Disney isn’t alone. Popular Information (a news site) has tracked donations of various companies and found that many, including Publix, Walgreens, and Comcast NBC Universal, are all “major corporate contributors to supporters of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.”

Comments from Abigail Disney

Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney (Walt Disney’s brother), has openly shared her criticisms of certain practices of the Company in the past, and she again shared some criticism of Disney’s actions in regards to this bill.

Specifically, in a Tweet sent in response to another Twitter user about Disney reportedly funding legislators that support the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Abigail Disney said “I could not be more unhappy with their political activities, both in terms of whom they fund and how they lobby. I would strongly support a law to require all corporations to reveal ALL of their funding and lobbying moves.”

She later retweeted the Hollywood Reporter article regarding Disney and the Florida Bill and said, “As Einstein said, you can’t stand still on a moving train. When laws are being passed that are this hateful and dripping with prejudice, there is no neutrality. Not saying anything is saying a lot.”

Comments from Bob Iger

Others associated with the Disney Company have also spoken out against the Bill. Specifically, former Disney CEO and Executive Chairman, Bob Iger, retweeted a statement from President Joe Biden which criticized the bill as “hateful.” In his response, Iger shared “I’m with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”

More About Disney’s Response

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney’s current CEO, Bob Chapek, “appears to want to handle certain controversial topics through internal dialogue.” Disney’s chief diversity officer, Latondra Newton, reportedly sent a message to staff recently that indicated that Bob Chapek had asked: “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 shares that Newton indicated Disney would be scheduling a “Reimagine Tomorrow” conversation dedicated to “issues of concern to our LGBTQ+ colleagues.” Newton also announced a “Reimagine Tomorrow Global Summit” that would be company-wide. This summit is set to be “the first gathering of our employees worldwide to discuss our progress on and plans for improving diversity, equity and inclusion at Disney.” Chapek will reportedly be participating in the summit.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, a source has said that Iger was more prone to speaking out against issues “not only when issues affected the company’s business interests but when they affected its employees.” Disney’s new chief of corporate affairs, Geoff Morrell, has stated the following about Chapek, “He believes the best way we can help create a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create and the diverse community organizations we support.”

The New York Post shares that a source close to Disney has said that they don’t deem the issue of this Bill to be irrelevant, but reportedly Chapek had not seen a need to comment. The Hollywood Reporter also points out that the management of Disney’s own government relations has changed under Chapek, and that many of those issues now fall to 2 individuals that once served in the George W. Bush administration.

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The Hollywood Reporter does note, however, that Disney’s website affirms its support for “freedom of identity and expression.” Disney has also supported a number of LGBTQ+ organizations over the years including “Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, GLSEN, Trevor Project and Outfest.”

We’ve also seen Disney support things like Gay Days, release Pride Month merchandise and snacks, and more.

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This is a developing situation. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the bill is expected to pass in the State’s Senate and be signed into law. We’ll continue to look for more updates and responses from Disney.

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The post Disney Issues Statement Regarding Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill first appeared on the disney food blog.