Disney issued a public statement to LGBTQ+ fans and employees today addressing the extensive public backlash as a result of their silence over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Via the official Walt Disney World Instagram page, representatives for the company said:
While on the Disney+ official account, a similar 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 public backlash began when Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers which operates four theme parks, dozens of hotels and holds huge political and economic sway in the state, failed to condemn Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which campaigners say will have devastating impact on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth and the White House has refereed to as “hateful legislation targeting vulnerable students”.
Despite the corporation publicly positioning itself as LGBTQ+ inclusive, hosting so-called ‘gay days’ at its parks and profiting off sales of Pride merchandise every year, all whilst reportedly bringing in an annual revenue of $17 billion, Disney is said to have donated money to every sponsor of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, according to the Orlando Sentinel and stayed neutral as the bill was passing through state legal proceedings.
Protests were held in schools across the state and outside Disney-owned spaces, and the controversy only continued to mount as a group of LGBT+ Pixar staff accused Disney bosses of cutting “nearly every moment” of overt same-sex affection from their movies, in a leaked letter from employees of the animation studio. The disputes continued to spill in as, soon after, it was revealed that a gay kiss was removed from upcoming Toy Story spin-off movie Lightyear (quickly resulting in it being put back in).
Following extensive public backlash, numerous protests, and the Human Rights Campaign declining a token $5 million donation until “meaningful action” is taken, Disney CEO Bob Chapek eventually apologised to employees (Friday 11 March) in a company-wide memo.
Some Disney employees have been staging walk-outs each day since Tuesday, March 15, from 3 to 3:15 p.m and today (March 22) scheduled a full-length walkout from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Disney’s latest public statements come as a result of said protests and continued anti-LGBT+ allegations being levelled at the company.
Users on social media were quick to challenge the corporation on their words, instead demanding positive and visible action, with comments like: “We gonna need more then just words.”