Disney's Silence on 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Speaks Volumes

Disney's Silence on 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Speaks Volumes

As Florida state legislature passes the highly controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill that will likely be signed into law, Disney comes increasingly under fire for donating to key supporters of the bill and the company's overall lackluster response to the piece of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

In a memo shared earlier this week, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek underscored the organization's "unequivocal" support of "our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities,” but stopped short of making any concrete commitments. “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.”

In the weeks leading up to the memo, Disney had drawn criticism for having donated to the campaigns of the same state legislators that had vocally championed the bill. Chapek declined to comment on why the company was okay with supporting politicians that are intent on banning all discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools but pointed out that Disney does donate to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

As for the lack of any sort of statement, Chapek said “I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support.” The CEO went on to explain that it was his belief that corporate statements don't often end up having that much of an impact “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.”

This echos similar sentiments sources told the Hollywood Reporter that Chapek intended to keep quiet on any political issues and had already declined to make a statement on voting rights prior to the introduction of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill. Going forward, Disney's new chief corporate-affairs officer, Geoff Morrell, would be “reassessing our advocacy strategies around the world — including political giving.”

However, Chapek did not give any indication that Disney plans to stop donating to these politicians but intends instead to show its support by continuing to produce "inspiring content." He specifically pointed to properties like Encanto, Black Panther, Pose, Coco, Shang-Chi, Modern Family and Love, Victor as being prime examples of how Disney can advocate for the LGBTQ+ community without having to commit to any sort of policy stance or lobbying effort. (Which is pretty much textbook virtue signaling.)

One of the creators of these proudly touted "diverse stories" Disney likes to parade around as evidence of how much they care about LGBTQ+ representation, The Owl House showrunner, Dana Terrace, was less than impressed at the company's handling of the whole situation. Describing the memo as a bunch of “pretty words to shut you up,” Terrace laid into the company and the abhorrent bill in a video message posted to Twitter. In response, Terrace also announced that she would be doing a charity livestream for LGBTQ+ organizations on March 13.

Photo via Getty/ Mark Ashman/ Disney