On March 9, The Walt Disney Company held its Annual Shareholders Meeting. The meeting encompassed a number of company issues, but the big one that many focused on was Disney’s response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill. The bill has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by critics. Disney had been in hot water with many fans for their lack of a response on the bill. During the meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company was opposed to the bill from the beginning, but admitted that the company failed when it came to its response to the bill’s passing.
While Chapek restated his support of Disney’s LGBTQ+ Cast Members and their families, he also revealed that Disney would be making a $5 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign. The Human Rights Campaign is one of the largest organizations in the world that fights to protect all members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately for Disney, the HRC found Disney’s statement lacking and rejected the large donation.
While rejecting such a large amount of money may seem surprising, the HRC is standing by its principles. The organization feels that Disney’s actions are largely performative and that the company needs to do more to protect some of its most vulnerable Cast Members. The HRC released a statement not long after Disney announced the donation.
“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.”
Disney responded to the HRC’s statement and said:
“We signed the HRC’s national business statement opposing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and pledged to financially support their efforts, and while we are surprised and disappointed that they will not take our financial support at this time, we remain committed to meaningful action to combat legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community”
During the Shareholders Meeting, Bob Chapek informed listeners that he had spoken with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis about the bill. Chapek said that DeSantis heard what he had to say and that the two would be meeting to discuss the bill. Chapek said that he hopes their meeting will be able to ensure that the bill is not used as a weapon against already marginalized communities.