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Disney CEO Bob Chapek Fails to Denounce ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill in New Email to Cast Members

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has sent out a company-wide email regarding the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill currently moving through the Florida government. Disney has donated to every sponsor of the bill and released a statement a few days ago that doesn’t denounce the bill or address the donations.

Chapek states, “I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities” but also failed to actually denounce the bill. He continues to say Disney will focus on creating an inclusive world through content, listing several Disney projects as examples of inclusivity, though most of the examples do not include any LGBTQ+ characters.

Chapek says that he met with LGBTQ+ leaders at Disney to discuss the legislation and that there will be a larger conversation at the Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April.

Read the full email:

Team,

Before getting to the heart of my message, I want to acknowledge all those impacted by the invasion of Ukraine, especially our team in Europe and our employees around the world who have family in the region. This is an unimaginably difficult time, and my thoughts are with you. I also want to thank the ABC News team covering the horrific events there. Their courage and dedication to informing the world during this crisis is exemplary.

On Friday, I met with a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss controversial legislation pending in Florida that would impact their communities. I want to thank them for a meaningful, illuminating, and at times deeply moving conversation. I told the group I would write to the entire company with my thoughts on the issues we discussed. I wish every one of our employees could have heard not just the passionate voices in the room, but the bravery, honesty, and pride those voices expressed. It is a conversation I will not forget.

One common theme was disappointment that the company has not issued a public statement condemning the legislation. That disappointment was compounded by the fact that, while not perfect, our company has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community-and in fact, has played an important role in the personal journeys of so many of our employees.

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. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do.

I also believe you deserve an explanation for why we have not issued a statement. We are going to have a more fulsome conversation about this at the company- wide Reimagine Tomorrow Summit in April, but I will preview that discussion now as it is so timely.

As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. 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.

I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support. 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.

There’s a reason content is at the top of this list. For nearly a century, our company’s stories have opened minds, inspired dreams, shown the world both as it is and how we wish it could be, and now more than ever before, represent the incredible diversity of our society. We are telling important stories, raising voices, and I believe, changing hearts and minds.

Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Reservation Dogs, Coco, Soul, Modern Family, Shang-Chi, Summer of Soul, Love, Victor. These and all of our diverse stories are our corporate statements and they are more powerful than any tweet or lobbying effort. I firmly believe that our ability to tell such stories-and have them received with open eyes, ears, and hearts -would be diminished if our company were to become a political football in any debate.

Powerful content that changes hearts and minds only springs from inclusive cultures, which not only attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, but also give those employees the freedom to bring forth ideas that reflect their lives and experiences. We must work together to ensure Disney always remains such a place.

In terms of our communities, we are and will continue to be a leader in supporting organizations that champion diversity. In 2021, we provided nearly $3 million to support the work of LGBTQ+ organizations. And, we have a long history of supporting important events like Pride parades, and for being there in times of need, just as we were following the Pulse shooting in Orlando. All this is why we have earned a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign for 16 years in a row.

Finally, I want to address concerns about our political contributions in Florida. While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation. I can also share that Geoff Morrell, our new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, will be reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world -including political giving -as he begins to integrate the communications, public policy, government relations and SR teams.

Our company has been a force for inclusion for a long time- and that will not change on my watch. We all have a role to play in this effort-from the Cast Members who make magical memories for fans and families of all kinds, to storytellers who take audiences on journeys to new storyworlds that illuminate our own, to everyone in between who is responsible for ensuring our culture lives up to our values. I hope we will all continue rowing in the direction of a better tomorrow.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill and has been criticized for its vague language regarding discussing LGBTQ+ issues in classrooms. It was passed by the Florida House of Representatives but has not yet been passed by the Senate.

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  1. Wow. That is really disappointing. Continuing to give money to the bill’s sponsors says a lot more than a pandering letter that pointedly refuses to say much of anything about the actual bill.

    Also, someone should have clued him in that “Democrat legislators” gives away his own bias since that’s what conservative media outlets and Republicans call elected Democrats. They are “Democratic legislators” and are called by their proper name by pretty much every reputable news organization – including Disney’s own ABC News.

  2. There are two arguments to be made here. The more important one is that the families aided by this bill are quite literally Disney’s bread and butter. To condemn the bill or its sponsors would be to literally alienate their entire customer base and would be tantamount to corporate malpractice. It would be like McDonalds condemning non-vegans.

    The other argument is on the merits of the bill itself. The legislation is only seven (7) pages long, including two-and-a-half pages of front matter that are not part of the legislation itself. The legislative portion of the text is not the least bit vague or objectionable. I have read criticisms probably similar to what you have about the application of limits on instruction to “certain grades”, which is vague; but that phrase does not appear except in the front matter of the bill. The change to actual statute is quite specific that the limitation applies to grades K-3. Most parents already assume their third-grader is not learning the mechanics of heterosexual intercourse, let alone homosexual or trans. There is frankly nothing in this bill for a reasonable person to object to.

    I would encourage everyone to read the bill itself (not articles ABOUT the bill). The language is straightforward; don’t be intimidated into thinking you need to have it explained to you by a third-party news source with an agenda. Google is your friend here though the first result, (myfloridahouse.gov), isn’t that useful. Scroll down to the second result on the flsenate.gov website, where you’ll find the text of the bill that passed the house and is pending action in the senate.

  3. “As we have seen time and again, corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. ” Didn’t stop them from taking a stand in Russia by halting movie distribution.

    I think this is just a way of trying to have their cake and eat it too. Fund the pet project of the politicians that can benefit Disney’s business interests in Florida and screw the people the bill is trying to hurt.

    Reading between the lines: “We’ll put a euphemistically gay moment in our next movie so it balances out. See? We’re inclusive.”

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