Disney CEO says company 'unequivocally' stands with LGBTQ+ employees after Florida passed its 'Don't Say Gay' bill, but still hasn't said if it will stop funding the lawmakers behind the bill

Bob Chapek
Disney CEO Bob Chapek hints that Disney World may soon lift its mask mandate for guestsJeff Gritchen: MediaNews Group: Orange County Register via Getty Images
  • Disney was under fire after not issuing a response to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.

  • Florida House lawmakers passed the bill, which bans discussions of sexuality and gender in schools.

  • CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged the "disappointment" for failing to respond in an internal memo.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek addressed Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill after critics called on the company to denounce the legislation, according to an internal memo obtained by Insider.

Florida House lawmakers passed the bill – which bans discussions of sexuality and gender in classrooms and allows parents to sue schools if staff members facilitate those conversations – and have sent it to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's desk to be signed into law.

The bill has been met with swift backlash, including from President Joe Biden, who denounced it in February.

"I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are," Biden tweeted at the time.

Last week, LGBTQ+ rights advocates protested outside Disney theme parks in California and Florida, urging the company to also denounce the bill. The company has also been accused of making political donations to Florida lawmakers who supported the bill.

The company did respond but steered clear of clear criticism of the proposed legislation, Insider's Taiyler Mitchell reported.

"We understand how important this issue is to our LGBTQ+ employees and many others," the company said in a statement. "For nearly a century, Disney has been a unifying force that brings people together. We are determined that it remains a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect."

"The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community," the company added.

On Monday, Chapek directly addressed the controversy in a memo sent to employees, acknowledging "disappointment" in the company for not clearly responding to the Florida bill and why it made the decision to do so.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported on the memo on Monday.

"As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds," Chapek said in the memo. "Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame. Simply put, they can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change."

The Disney CEO said the company's political donations have not been influenced by this legislation and that Disney has made political contributions to "both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation."

He went on to say the company will be "reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world — including political giving."

Chapek did not clarify if the company would specifically cease donations to certain lawmakers who supported the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Disney gave nearly $200,000 over the last two years to Florida lawmakers who supported the proposed legislation, including the bill's Republican sponsors, state Rep. Joe Harding and state Sen. Dennis Baxley, according to Popular Information.

Nonetheless, Chapek said he "and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities."

"We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world," Chapek said. "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."

A representative from Disney did not immediately respond to Insider's inquiry on whether the company would continue to donate to lawmakers who supported the proposed legislation in Florida.

Read the original article on Business Insider