Disney's CEO now says the company opposes Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill after facing backlash for defending his silence on the issue.
CEO Bob Chapek said during a Wednesday shareholder meeting that Disney is opposed to the controversial legislation in Florida that would bar teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with young kids. The comments came just days after Chapek defended not issuing a statement against the bill.
"I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill," Chapek said, per Deadline. "We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we felt we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle."
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Earlier this week, Chapek wrote a memo to Disney employees explaining why the company wouldn't issue a statement condemning the legislation. He argued that "corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds" and "can be counterproductive," as they "are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame." That position sparked backlash, and the Animation Guild called it "disheartening."
On Wednesday, though, Chapek said that "despite weeks of effort, we were ultimately unsuccessful" in preventing the bill from being passed, and he said he called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to "express our disappointment and concern" that it could "be used to target" LGBTQ+ kids and families. He also said he'll be meeting with DeSantis to discuss the bill.
"Certainly the outcome in Florida was not what many of us were hoping for – especially our LGBTQ+ employees," Chapek said.
Chapek also announced that Disney will donate $5 million to organizations working to protect LGBTQ rights, including the Human Rights Campaign, as "unfortunately legislation targeting their communities is being considered in many other states, which means this fight will go on."
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