Facing LGBTQ+ backlash, Disney outlines next steps in ‘Don’t Say Gay’ controversy

Chapek said it boiled down to making sure the bill isn't used as a weapon.

Under pressure for not taking a stronger stance against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told his shareholders the company quietly lobbied behind the scenes against the legislation but ultimately failed.

“I understand our political approach, no matter how well-intentioned, didn’t quite get the job done,” Chapek said during Wednesday’s company annual shareholders meeting as he revealed he spoke recently to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Chapek pledged to do more, saying the company would sign a statement opposing similar legislative efforts around the country and pledged $5 million to protect LGBTQ+ rights.

Chapek said he talked on the phone Wednesday with DeSantis in an “extraordinary conversation” and plans to meet in-person with the Governor along with a small number of Disney cast members. Chapek did not say when that meeting was taking place.

“While we’ve been strong supporters of the (LGBTQ+) community for decades, I know that many are upset that we did not speak out against the bill. Now we were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle,” Chapek said during the meeting where the bill and the backlash were brought up several times. “We were hopeful that our long-standing relationships with those lawmakers would enable us to achieve a better outcome. But despite weeks of effort, we were ultimately unsuccessful.”

The controversial measure that limits what educators can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity passed the Florida Senate this week.

One San Diego shareholder expressed skepticism over what can be gained meeting with DeSantis who has expressed his support for the bill.

Chapek said it boiled down to making sure the bill isn’t used as a weapon.

“Gov. DeSantis committed to me that he wanted to make sure that this law could not be weaponized in any way by individuals in the state or groups in the state to in any way unduly harm or target gay, lesbian, nonbinary or transgender kids and families,” Chapek said. “He was very open to this conversation and finding out what aspects are most concerning and working to ensure that could not happen in the state of Florida with this legislation. So, I was encouraged by that, and I look forward to visiting with the Governor with a small delegation of cast members who are involved in this movement.”

Disney has faced public outcry for not denouncing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and making political donations to some of the legislators who sponsored the bill. Critics called it hypocrisy from a company that promotes inclusivity and sponsors Gay Days at the parks.

The company had recently released a statement that didn’t address the bill directly, which further angered many Disney employees and fans.

“The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce, the welcoming culture we create here and the diverse community organizations we support, including those representing the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement read.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Tom

    March 10, 2022 at 6:05 am

    The CEO and any individual or company are entitled to opinions. Mr Chapek is certainly entitled to his, as is Disney’s. This is not a new issue, it’s been discussed for months. I’m sure he has a gov affairs division that monitors proposals.

    Since Disney and Chapek are pawns of China, how would dictator Xi behave? Or Putin. We’re those Afghans fleeing and falling off airplanes wings and tires wanting to go to China or Russia? No, the USA. Cause all views are heard, rightly or wrongly. It’s called the first amendment. You may disagree or agree with this legislation, but to enter at the 11 1/2 hr is grandstanding.

    The legislation does not say, don’t say “gay” but that was not clarified once again in this outline.

    I hope America’s Governor makes the legislation clear and explains that chapek could participate and visit with him. Not like China or Russia. He’s appears to be doing this because the left complained. Mr Chapeks staff knew this was pending and coming and if not, he’s overpaying them.

    I am confident America’s Governor will explain everything to him. And ask a few questions.

    Florida is the beacon for freedom and Disney benefits fully compared to California and other countries like China. They’ve received tremendous state favor and benefit. They bring tourists and people enjoy Florida sun and beaches. It’s a two way street.

    Disney needs to read and respect the legislature wishes. Media needs to be more honest in description.

    • Lynda

      March 10, 2022 at 10:38 am

      America’s Governor?? Really? The positions taken by deSantis are not supported by a majority of voters answering unbiased polls. Just as Rudi is no longer considered America’s Mayor, deSantis will never be accepted as America’s Governor.,

      • Tom

        March 10, 2022 at 6:39 pm

        You ignored the substance.
        Scratch off!
        Yes America’s Governor. He is, it’s not a discussion. He’s the conservative leader and is only second to past potus 45. Repubs love him.
        Who you got? Crotch grabber cuomo?
        How bout ex gov VA black face Northam.
        Nazi Whitmer in MI?
        Newsom the mask less one in Cali

        DeSantis is in the lead by 12 to 20pts.
        Over 20% Dems support him. Independents by 20% Hispanics by 52%. Landslide proportion.
        Biden is at 34% to 37% in Florida, like in the USA.

        Camillion crisp & the fraud no chance.
        Go scratch.

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