Disney Promises to Work for 'Don't Say Gay' Repeal

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday March 29, 2022

After critiques about Disney's political donations and slowness to respond to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill — now signed into law — the company says it's all-in on working toward the measure's repeal, according to Variety.

"Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney said in a statement on March 28 — the same day Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial legislation.

"Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that," the statement continued.

"We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."

Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law criminalizes classroom discussion of LGBTQ+ issues up through third grade, as well as outlawing any such discussion deemed "not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards" in any grade.

The broad wording of the bill, as well as its encouragement of lawsuits against teachers and schools, has prompted equality advocates to worry that LGBTQ+ youth will be systematically silenced and marginalized throughout the state's education system.

Disney has been hammered by critics over having contributed to all of the state lawmakers who promoted the bill, and has also faced criticism from within the ranks of its own employees, who staged walkouts last week in protest of CEO Bob Chapek's initial reluctance to take a stand on the issue.

Adding to the controversy was a letter from workers at Pixar, the company's digital animation studio, which has produced hit films such as "Toy Story," "Onward," "Luca," and "Turning Red," some of which included LGBTQ+ characters or storylines...at least, initially. Pixar employees allege that Disney executives ordered changes and excisions to Pixar films, including "nearly every moment of overtly gay affection...regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar," Variety recalled.

Disney's efforts at damage control have also included a recently-announced restoration of a same-sex kiss that had initially been ordered cut from the upcoming film "Lightyear" — a "Toy Story" prequel centered on the character Buzz Lightyear that also features a lesbian character — as well as announcing a "pause" on political donations in the state of Florida, CNBC noted. Following the latter, Gov. DeSantis slammed Disney as "woke" and accused the company of having overly-close ties to China.

Instead of funneling money to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, Disney has promised $5 million in support to organizations advocating for equality, political news outlet The Hill reported.

Chapek also issued an apology for having kept the company out of the fight for so long.

"It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights," The Hill quoted Chapek as saying. "You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down."

"I am sorry."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.