The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida that the Walt Disney Company was slow to publicly rebuke is now law.
The legislation signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Monday forbids “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in public schools from kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The vague language of the bill may lead to teachers fearing legal repercussions for discussing topics like same-sex marriage or AIDS in their classrooms.
Theme parks became wrapped up in this cultural battle because of political donations that Disney and Comcast, parent company of the Universal Orlando Resort, have given to the bill’s sponsors.
After initially refusing to publicly condemn the legislation, Disney CEO Bob Chapek backtracked, pledging in a memo to Disney employees, “I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve.”
The Walt Disney Company more forcefully denounced the law in a statement released Monday:
“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. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. 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.”
So far, Disney has not taken other concrete steps to put its condemnation of the law into action such as canceling a planned move of Walt Disney Imagineering to a new campus in Orlando.
In contrast to Disney’s multiple statements on the legislation, Comcast and Universal Orlando have not commented on the new law. Multiple requests from Theme Park Tribune seeking comment on Comcast’s political donations to the bill’s sponsors, and its overall stance on the law, have gone unreturned.
Before the bill became law, Nadine Smith, executive director of LGTBQ+ rights group Equality Florida, said in an email to Theme Park Tribune, “Silence is complicity and in that silence, companies have failed their employees and customers who believed all those values statements were more than marketing materials.”