Disney CEO Bob Chapek denounces ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill week after protests

Chapek says the company has opposed bill ‘from the outset,’ met with lawmakers to achieve better outcome

Bob Chapek now has the keys to the whole Disney empire -— not just the Magic Kingdom. The company named Chapek its new CEO on Tuesday, replacing Bob Iger. (Kin Cheung, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Disney CEO Bob Chapek publicly opposed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill—dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics—Wednesday at a shareholders meeting, nearly a week after people protested and asked the company to share its views on the controversial piece of legislation.

The state bill, which aims to limit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, was sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday after being approved by both the House and the Senate.

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“While we’ve been strong supporters of the (LGBTQ) community for decades, I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill. Now, 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,” Chapek said at the meeting.

Chapek said despite expressing his “disappointment and concern” with the legislation to DeSantis himself Wednesday morning, and “weeks of effort” engaging with Democrat and Republican lawmakers, their decision could not be swayed.

“The governor heard our concerns in agreeing to meet with me and LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them,” Chapek said. “Certainly the outcome in Florida was not what many of us were hoping for, especially our LGBTQ+ employees.”

These comments come after hundreds of people gathered for rallies, held in both Florida and California, on March 3 calling for Disney to take a stand.

DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, issued the following statement in response to Chapek’s recent public announcement:

People also lobbed criticisms at Disney for financially investing and politically contributing to candidates and lawmakers who champion legislation similar to “Don’t Say Gay.”

“As you know, when we donate money to different political candidates. We have no idea how they’re going to vote going forward into the future,” Chapek said. “But what I will say is that we give to both sides of the aisle to candidates across the board, in all states in all jurisdictions, therefore, anybody can pretty much take any issue and do a cross sectional slice of it and say, Disney supports this group.”

To further redress Disney’s reticence to publicly condemn the bill, Chapek added the company signed the Human Rights Campaign statement, which works to oppose legislative efforts targeting LGBTQ people around the country.

Chapek said the company is also donating $5 million toward organizations that specialize in championing and protecting LGBTQ rights.

“As I wrote to our employees earlier this week, we are committed to supporting community organizations like these so they are better equipped to take on these fights. And then well we’re also reassessing our approach to advocacy, including political giving in Florida and beyond,” Chapek said. “I understand our original approach, no matter how well-intended, didn’t quite get the job done. We’re committed to support the community going forward.”

However, the Human Right Campaign, one of the groups Disney planned to donate to, said it will not accept the company’s money. HRC released the following statement from its interim president:

“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, and if they do, to work to get them off the books. Businesses have had and continue to have a major impact in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from marriage equality to the defeat of House Bill 2 in North Carolina and beyond. 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.

“HRC encourages Disney, and all employers, to continue to fight for their employees – many of whom bravely spoke out to say their CEO’s silence was unacceptable – and the LGBTQ+ community by working with us and state and local LGBTQ+ groups to ensure these dangerous anti-equality proposals that harm LGBTQ+ families and kids have no place in Florida. Every student deserves to be seen, and every student deserves an education that prepares them for health and success — regardless of who they are. This should be the beginning of Disney’s advocacy efforts rather than the end.”

About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.