Theme park and entertainment giant Disney has halted all political donations in Florida following an outcry among LGBTQ staff over their silence on legislation perceived as “anti-gay,” its chief executive said Friday.
The Florida State Senate this week approved a bill banning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools, the latest effort by Republicans in the United States to reshape education policy along conservative lines.
Opponents and LGBTQ rights activists have lobbied against what they call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which will affect children from kindergarten through third grade, when they are eight or nine years old.
Disney, which has a large presence in the southern state through its Walt Disney World resort, has faced weeks of both internal and external criticism for its lack of public response.
Staff at Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios said they were “disappointed, hurt, scared and angry” at their company’s silence on the Florida legislation.
On Friday, Chief Executive Bob Chapek told them he was sorry the company had let them down.
“Clearly this is not just an issue over a Florida bill, but another challenge to basic human rights,” he wrote in an email, published by Variety.
“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I’m sorry.”
Chapek said Disney would strengthen its support for campaigns to prevent similar legislation in other states as part of an effort to “ensure that our advocacy better reflects our values.”
“And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review.”
Chapek said the company needed to do more, but insisted it had the backs of sexual minority staff.
“I truly believe that we are an infinitely better and stronger company because of our LGBTQ+ community.
“I missed the mark on this case, but I am an ally you can count on, and I will be an outspoken advocate for the protections, visibility and opportunity you deserve.”
The Florida legislation, championed by potential presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis, is part of a national effort by Republicans who feel they are taking back control of liberal policies they say undermine traditional family values.
Similar moves are underway in other Republican-led or Republican-leaning states, mostly in the South.