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Animation Guild Slams Disney CEO’s ‘Disheartening’ Response to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill: A ‘Momentous Misstep’

"To quote one of your own properties, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ You have failed that test in Florida."

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION - Advocates march at a rally at the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Fla., spearheaded by advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) on Thursday, March 3, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. The advocates targeted Disney in two near-simultaneous rallies in Orlando and Burbank, Calif., to urge Disney to publicly speak out to oppose Florida's hateful, homophobic "Don't Say Gay" bill targeting LGBTQ+youth, their families, teachers, and school counselors that is currently pending in the Florida legislature. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Protestors outside the Walt Disney Company in Orlando

AP

The Animation Guild’s Executive Board and QueerTAG Committee condemned Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek’s statement regarding Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which Disney financially backed.

The Animation Guild wrote on Instagram that it is “disheartening” that Disney did not immediately oppose Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, calling it a “momentous misstep” for the corporation.

CEO Chapek assured staff members on March 7 that the corporation “unequivocally” supports LGBTQ+ rights, despite donating to “Don’t Say Gay” bill backers for years. Officially titled the House Bill 1557, the law prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida primary schools.

Chapek acknowledged the “disappointment” surrounding the fact that Disney waited to release a “public statement condemning the legislation,” while acknowledging that “our company has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community — and in fact, has played an important role in the personal journeys of so many of our employees.”

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley, has actively backed anti-gay legislation for years, including laws that would block gay couples from adopting children. Disney has funded Baxley’s political campaigns.

Now, the Animation Guild is calling out Chapek’s handling of the bill, which passed the Florida Senate this week, and, if signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, will go into effect July 1.

“It is disheartening that Disney, one of the world’s most successful brands with massive resources and a global platform, failed to take any action to help prevent the passage of this bill,” the group wrote. “It is one thing to say that you ‘unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities.’ It’s quite another for you to stand silent while this scurrilous piece of homophobic legislation passes.”

The guild’s response — on behalf of LGBTQ+ members of the Animation Guild (IATSE Local 839), including employees of The Walt Disney Company, the leadership of the Animation Guild, and allies — described Chapek’s decision as “a momentous misstep by Disney’s leadership that defies logic and company ethics.”

In a longer statement, the guild wrote that Chapek “did not unilaterally condemn this homophobic bill, but instead defended the company’s contributions to legislators who supported it.”

The Animation Guild noted, “It is time for corporations who continuously seek to engage the LGBTQ+ community to prove that their intentions are not disingenuous by backing up their words with definitive actions. To quote one of your own properties [“Spider-Man”], ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ You have failed that test in Florida.”

Disney employees have criticized Chapek’s statement, calling it too little, too late. LGBTQ+ advocates and supporters are set to continue their protest efforts at both Disney campuses in Burbank and Orlando from March 8–11, as reported by Business Wire.

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