On March 8, the Florida State Senate passed the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill — dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”. The bill has been the topic of many conversations, with many believing that the bill will unfairly target members of the LGBTQ+ community. Since Disney is one of the largest employers and money-makers in the state, fans, and opponents of the bill called on the company to speak out against it. The bill would ban teachers from speaking about issues like gender identity and sexual orientation with children in the classroom from kindergarten through third grade.
For nearly a week, Disney remained silent, but then released a statement that did not go over well. Many felt that the statement was not a statement at all. Bob Chapek then tried to smooth the waters by sending out a company-wide email about Disney’s support of the LGBTQ+ community, but that also did not sit well with many. Since then, more and more people have been calling on Disney to do more.
Well now, Chapek is going one step further. During Disney’s Annual Shareholders Meeting, Chapek revealed that he will be heading to Florida to meet with Governor Ron DeSantis. Chapek said that he has opposed the legislation from the outset, so he is hoping to meet with the Governor before the bill is signed into law. Chapek said that he has already spoken to DeSantis about the dangers of the bill, and they will be speaking further about the issue.
About the genesis of the legislation, the process that the state went through to get it to go through the lawmaking bodies and, most importantly to answer your question of what comes next, Governor DeSantis committed to me that he wanted to make sure that this law could not be weaponized in any way to in any way unduly harm or target gay, lesbian, nonbinary, transgender kids and families. He suggested what we could do is take a view at the legislation as it is written and come up with ideas and concerns with specific aspects of the legislation which would lead to the weaponization of it. And he was very open to this conversation and finding out which aspects were most concerning. So I was encouraged by that and I look forward to visiting with the governor with a small delegation of Cast Members who are involved in this movement.
Disney has been called out for donating to all of the bill’s sponsors, but Chapek said that Disney has donated to both sides of the aisle. Disney just created its 5th Key of Inclusion last year, so it will be interesting to see any change or influence Disney could potentially have on the wording of the bill.