Disney Employees Criticize Bob Chapek’s Response to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill: ‘We’re Devastated’

"This bill is going to hurt kids," Disney animation writer Benjamin Siemon tweeted.
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION - A crowd at a rally at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank spearheaded by advocates from AIDS Healthcare Foundation on Thursday, March 03, 2022 in Burbank, Calif. The advocates targeted Disney in two near simultaneous rallies in Orlando and Burbank, CA 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. (Dan Steinberg/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Dan Steinberg/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek issued a memo to staff members March 7 to state that the corporation “unequivocally” supports LGBTQ+ rights, despite donating to “Don’t Say Gay” bill backers for years. But Disney employees quickly took to Twitter to voice their disdain, calling the statement too, little too late.

“[Disney is] starting to include more LGBT characters that let kids know that being gay is all right. But when they have donated to the sponsors and co-sponsors of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and they have made no position against this bill, and they are going to continue donating to these politicians, they are essentially saying that this bill is OK,” animation writer Benjamin Siemon said in a video posted on Twitter. “This bill is going to hurt kids, and that’s why I’m asking Disney to please take a position on the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and say that it’s wrong and say that you’re going to stop donating to the politicians that vote for it.”

Siemon later tweeted, “I still can’t describe how much pain the Disney LGBTQ+ employee community is in today. We’re devastated.”

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida primary schools. It was previously reported that Disney has given money to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was passed by Florida’s House of Representatives February 24. Officially titled the House Bill 1557, the proposed law is heading to the state’s Republican-held Senate next.

As the Orlando Sentinel reported, 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.

Disney CEO Chapek wrote in the memo on Monday, “Because this struggle is much bigger than any one bill in any one state, I believe the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.”

Chapek additionally acknowledged that there was “disappointment” surrounding the fact that Disney waited to release a “public statement condemning the legislation.”

“That disappointment was compounded by the fact that, while not perfect, 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,” Chapek wrote, citing that in 2021, the corporation provided nearly $3 million to support the work of LGBTQ+ organizations and has earned a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign for 16 consecutive years.

“As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds,” Chapek continued. “Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”

Now, Disney content creators and filmmakers are calling out the statement.

“I’m gay! I work for Disney feature animation! Disney needs to support the people making the content AND the families we’re making them for!” technical designer Cameron Black tweeted. “Silence is unacceptable!”

“Andi Mack” alum Lilan Bowden responded, “I LOVED being a part of a Disney Channel show known for featuring gay characters AND storylines. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill will be DETRIMENTAL to LGBTQIA+ kids. I’m with [Siemon], hoping the company or more ppl in the company take action against this hateful bill. #DisneySayGay.”

Drew Z. Greenberg, a writer for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” also tweeted, “I’m a huge Disney fan as is well documented on this site. Even I say this statement is weak.”

“The Ghost and Molly McGee” director Sam King wrote, “It is so frustrating that us LGBT Disney employees have to speak up about existing and wanting other people in our community to be safe, in fear for our livelihoods. If the company is so dedicated to inclusion, why is standing up for the safety of LGBT youth, at odds with it.”

“The Ghost and Molly McGee” writer Sammie Crowley added, “As a fellow LGBT writer at Disney this has been so frustrating and disheartening #DisneySayGay — you don’t get to say you support LGBT+ people then fund politicians who push a bill that endangers them.” 

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.

To read Chapek’s full response to “Don’t Say Gay,” click here.

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