Disney is facing massive backlash after it was discovered that the company donated money to the GOP sponsors of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prevent teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ topics in schools.
The bill was recently passed by the Florida House of Representatives and is now heading to the Republican-controlled Senate. If passed, it will prohibit discussion about queer identities and issues in the classroom, virtually erasing the experience of LGBTQ+ students.
It is thus no surprise that the LGBTQ+ community was outraged when it emerged that Disney funded the bill’s sponsors. Around $4,000 were donated to them from at least three Disney entities last year for the 2022 re-elections campaigns. Threats of boycott have erupted on social media after the revelation, in an effort to pressure the company to take a stance against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and students protested across the whole state.
On March 2, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group SAVE organised a protest outside Walt Disney World Resort to call the company out on their involvement with the anti-LGBTQ+ bill and to urge them to take a stance against it. The demonstrators marched outside one of the entrances holding up signs reading “Disney Protect LGBTQ+ Kids” and “Stand With LGBTQ+ Families”.
The backlash only escalated after Disney released a statement to Good Morning America without expressively condemning the bill, nor saying that funding to the lawmakers who support it would be pulled.
“For nearly a century, Disney has been a unifying force that brings people together. We are determined that it remains a place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect” were the words they used to address the issue. “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.”
NEW: Disney responds to protests and calls for action surrounding Florida's "Don't Say Gay" Bill, saying in part, "The biggest impact we can have in creating a more inclusive world is through the inspiring content we produce."
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 4, 2022
The relationship between Disney and the community was already strained and funding sponsors of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is surely not going to make it better. The company has been accused multiple times of supporting the LGBTQ+ community only when it’s profitable and of trying to draw in audiences by hinting at queer content without actually delivering any real representation. For decades, the Gay Days have been organised at Disney World and Disneyland each year, without being sanctioned by the company.
Many have publicly spoken out about the issue. Among them was Disney’s heir, Abigail Disney, who took to Twitter to express her dissatisfaction with the company’s move. “I could not be more unhappy with their political activities, both in terms of whom they fund and how they lobby,” she wrote.
One of Disney’s writers, Benjamin Siemon, also urged the company to stand against Florida’s bill, saying that backing certain politicians is virtually the same as backing the bill itself. Moreover, drag queen Miss Coco Peru also expressed her disappointment with Disney’s weak response and said that she will have to decline the invitation to perform at the Gay Days in Disneyland. “I know that little ol’ me alone probably won’t change a thing, but I’d feel like a hypocrite if I did anything that brought Disney our queer money,” she wrote on a Facebook post.
— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 6, 2022
The backlash that Disney is facing for funding Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill sponsors is not the only form of protest sparked by the controversial law proposal. Florida students have staged protests all over the country chanting “We say gay” in a last attempt to stop the legislation from passing.
Similar laws and actions that target the queer community are currently being discussed in many US states, as there seems to be a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislations happening across the country. In Texas, Republican governors are trying to have parents who support gender-affirming medical care for their Trans children be investigated for child abuse. In Idaho, a legislation has been proposed recently that would criminalise gender-affirming care for Trans youth by expanding existing legislation that prohibits female genital mutilation.
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