LGBTQIA+ Disney employees walk out over “Don’t Say Gay Bill”

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The Walt Disney Company headquarters in Burbank, California (Photo: Coolcaesar)

Hundreds of LGBTQIA+ Disney employees have staged walkouts to protest the company’s failure to condemn Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill.

On Tuesday, a stream of LGBTQIA+ and allied staff left their desks and walked out of The Walt Disney Company (TWDC) headquarters in Burbank. Workers in other divisions across the US, such as Lucasfilm and Pixar, participated in the protest action.

Employees and contractors also spoke out on social media against Disney’s failure to take a stand against the discriminatory legislation, using hashtags like #DisneyWalkout, #DisneyDoBetter, #DisneySayTrans, and #DisneySayGay.

“I am a proud, gay man,” said one staff member on Twitter. “I am a proud Disney Employee! I am participating in the #DisneyWalkOut BECAUSE I love my job, the people I work with, and the company I work for. It is time for our leaders SUPPORT AND DEFEND the human rights of our Florida LGBTQIA+ colleagues!”

Another wrote: “As a Star Wars artist and an LGBTQIA+ mom, I absolutely stand with the Disney employees walking out today. Disney must do better. #DisneyWalkOut.”

The bill, which was passed earlier this month by the state’s lawmakers, bans discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in primary schools. The White House called it “hateful legislation targeting vulnerable students”.

Disney at first rejected calls for it to condemn the bill but after a massive backlash, CEO Bob Chapek reversed course and admitted that the company had failed its LGBTQIA+ employees and the broader LGBTQIA+ community.

On the Disney Walkout Do Better website, employees called on the company to “immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations” to the politicians involved in the creation or passage of the “don’t say gay or trans” bill.

Other demands were for the corporation to reaffirm its “commitment to protecting and advocating for its LGBTQIA+ staff, even in the face of political risk.”

They further urged the company to make up for its inaction by making substantial contributions to LGBTQIA+ rights groups and to expand its content to better represent the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Our community will not sit silently while TWDC fails in its obligations to advocate for employees it claims to support with ‘unwavering commitment’, profits off our labor, and boasts of record profits it has used to fund politicians who legislate unsafe schools for our youth,” said the employees.

“The ongoing attempts to placate the LGBTQIA+ community with subpar representation in the content produced and donations to well-meaning organizations are simply not enough,” they added.

Meanwhile, Disney has reportedly established an LGBTQ+ task force that will work with experts to develop a plan to ensure it is “a force for good” for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has rejected criticism of the bill and confirmed that he will soon sign it into law. He disingenuously claims that opponents of the legislation are “in favour of injecting sexual instruction to 5-, 6- and 7-year-old kids.”

LGBTQIA+ rights groups say that the bill will stifle efforts to be inclusive and normalise LGBTQIA+ families in schools.

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