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Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s response to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill recently introduced in Florida has been deemed “tone deaf at best and incredibly dangerous at worst” by the company’s Animation division.

Employees of Disney TV Animation and Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution penned letters in which LGBTQ+ employees demanded the Walt Disney Company withdraw funding from politicians who support the bill and other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

They also asked the company’s management to take a more forceful stance against political efforts deemed “antithetical to the ethics of the Walt Disney Company and its employees.”

The response comes after CEO Bob Chapek issued an internal memo to staff and a public statement to shareholders wherein he addressed the company’s stance on the proposed Florida legislation. If passed, it would bar educators from discussing topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity with students, require teachers to inform parents of their child’s sexual orientation if it is revealed to be anything but straight, and allow parents to sue schools if they failed to adhere to these rules.

Chapek claimed Disney “unequivocally” stands with its LGBTQ+ employees, but acknowledged there was more the company should be doing. He explained that the company hadn’t released a public statement on the bill because such declarations “are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame,” and claimed such a move could be “counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change.”

“I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company – and world,” Chapek wrote. “We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there. And because this struggle is much bigger than any one bill in any one state, I believe the best way for our company to bring about lasting change is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create, and the diverse community organizations we support.”

Disney’s LGBTQ+ employees, who said they were “mentally preparing to mourn the loss of basic human dignity and rights of the LGBTQ+ communities, families and children of Florida,” felt this response did not go far enough, and accused Chapek of “contributing to the continual erosion of our safety and well-being.”

“The self-congratulatory, apathetic and dismissive nature of this response sent out by Bob yesterday is tone-deaf at best and incredibly dangerous at worst,” the letter by LGBTQ+ workers in the animation department reads. “We don’t need to hear as employees how corporate leaders are patting themselves on the back for finding excuses to continue to donate to a group of politicians that openly are harming our community, most especially the children within it.”

The letter puts particular emphasis on the recent cancelation of ‘The Owl House’ animated series, which featured Disney’s first bisexual lead character. Its authors claim it revealed management’s real views on LGBTQ+ content.

The group has called on Disney to take a firmer public stance against the Florida bill, amid fears a lack of response could encourage the adoption of similar legislation in Texas, Tennessee, and other US states. They have requested that Disney “act to destroy this legislation and save the lives – in some cases, quite literally prevent suicide – of the children, families, and communities that will be deeply harmed by it.” 

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