Disney+ Speaks Out Against 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Amid Employee Walkouts

Disney+ has spoken out against Florida's controversial new Parental Rights in Education bill as employees plan a walkout over the entertainment company's initially soft stance on the issue.

Dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics, the legislation, which was passed by Florida's Republican-controlled state Senate this month, prohibits teachers from discussing LGBTQIA+ issues with students from kindergarten up to third grade.

After Disney CEO Bob Chapek faced criticism from employees for not publicly condemning the legislation, he said this month that he would meet with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and LGBTQIA+ leaders at Disney to discuss the bill.

Streaming service Disney+ on Tuesday issued its own statement on the legislation, saying that it stands to "harm" young people and their families.

The statement read: "Disney+ stands by our LGBTQIA+ employees, colleagues, families, storytellers, and fans, and we strongly denounce all legislation that infringes on the basic human rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community—especially legislation that targets and harms young people and their families.

"We strive to create a service that reflects the world in which we live, and our hope is to be a source for inclusive, empowering, and authentic stories that unite us in our shared humanity."

The statement comes as employees of Florida's Walt Disney World and California's Disneyland theme parks plan a walkout over The Walt Disney Company's (TWDC) response to the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by DeSantis.

As activists express fears that the bill could lead to further discriminatory bills against the LGBTQIA+ community, employees across Disney's divisions are planning protests. Some employees planned a full-scale walkout for Tuesday, which will see them walking off their positions at both parks between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.

A statement on the Disney Do Better Walkout website reads: "The recent statements and lack of action by TWDC leadership regarding the 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation.

"As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position. We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry."

After facing pressure, Chapek announced during Disney's recent annual shareholder meeting that he would be meeting with DeSantis to discuss the bill.

He said: "I called Governor DeSantis this morning to express our disappointment and concern that if legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, nonbinary and transgender kids and families.

"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 them."

However, the governor's office said in a statement that no in-person meeting with Chapek had been arranged, adding that DeSantis' position "has not changed."

Disney owns a number of properties in Florida, including Orlando's popular Walt Disney World theme park. The company is also a major political donor to the state's politicians.

Since the backlash, a number of figures and organizations that helped advance the Parental Rights in Education bill have had their donations from Disney paused.

Update 03/22/22 1:35 p.m. ET: This article has been updated to include additional information.

Disney+ speaks out against Florida bill
In this photo illustration, the Disney+ logo is displayed on the screen of a television on November 8, 2019 in Paris, France. Representatives of the streaming service have spoken out against Florida's controversial new "Don't Say Gay" bill amid planned employee walkouts. Getty Images/Chesnot