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Disney CEO says company opposes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida, seeks meeting with DeSantis

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A view of Mickey Mouse at the Walt Disney World theme park entrance in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Octavio Jones | Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company is now publicly opposing Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

On Wednesday, CEO Bob Chapek addressed the company’s stance on the bill and acknowledged that its original approach “didn’t get the job done.”

Chapek told shareholders that he will meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Disney will donate $5 million to organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, which work to protect LGTBQ+ rights.

“I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill,” Chapek said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”

“We were hopeful that our longstanding relationships with those lawmakers would enable use to achieve a better outcome, but despite weeks of effort we were ultimately unsuccessful,” he said.

Disney has made diversity and inclusion a major part of its corporate policies and storytelling across theme parks, movies and TV shows.

Disney has already begun to reimagine several iconic theme park attractions, including its Jungle Cruise ride, and is transitioning Splash Mountain into a new adventure ride featuring Princess Tiana, the company’s first Black princess, and other characters from “The Princess and the Frog.”

The company has also made its dress code more gender-inclusive last year, allowing for more varied hairstyles, jewelry and nail styles, as well as allowing cast members to show off their tattoos, something that was not permitted previously.

Florida passed its “Don’t Say Gay” bill earlier this week, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools for kindergarten through third grade. Disney has faced pressure for not opposing the bill publicly, particularly after it was determined that the company provided financial support for some of the bill’s backers in the state legislature.

Chapek said the company is reassessing its approach to advocacy, including its political giving in Florida.

“I called Gov. DeSantis this morning to express our disappointment and concern that if legislation becomes law it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families,” Chapek said. “The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address that.

“I understand our original approach no matter how well-intended didn’t quite get the job done,” he added. “We are committed to support the community going forward.”

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