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Employees of Disney TV Animation and Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution are demanding the company withdraw funding from politicians who support Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill and similar anti-LGBTQ legislation.
In letters written separately by the groups and obtained Thursday by The Hollywood Reporter, the LGBTQ employees and their allies also ask The Walt Disney Company to forcefully denounce these political efforts as “antithetical to the ethics of TWDC and its employees.”
In the communication titled “A Statement to Leadership From the Queer/LGBTQ+ Employees of DTVA & Their Allies,” DTVA staffers say they are “proud of the leaders who have spoken up against Disney’s continued monetary support of anti-gay and anti-trans legislation and politicians” but that the company’s public stances ultimately speak louder.
Directly addressing the anti-LGBTQ legislation’s passage through the Florida legislature, where it is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Ron DeSantis, the statement begins, “We write this message with incredibly heavy hearts today, and with an equally raging fire of anger within us…. We are mentally preparing to mourn the loss of basic human dignity and rights of the LGBTQ+ communities, families and children of Florida. A burden and trauma that has been tread many times by the LGBTQ+ community.”
It goes on to highlight how Disney’s LGBTQ employees are facing a “literal attack” outside the office through a rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation, while in the workplace, “Chapek is contributing to the continual erosion of our safety and well-being.”
It also slams the tone of the Disney CEO’s statements, first in an internal memo to staff and then in a public statement to shareholders two days later.
“The self-congratulatory, apathetic and dismissive nature of this response sent out by Bob yesterday is tone-deaf at best and incredibly dangerous at worst,” reads the letter. “We don’t need to hear as employees how corporate leaders are patting themselves on the back for finding excuses to continue to donate to a group of politicians that openly are harming our community, most especially the children within it.”
The DTVA letter puts particular emphasis on the cancelation of The Owl House after just two seasons, a history-making show that featured DTVA’s first bisexual lead character and one of animation’s first overall LGBTQ lead children’s animated characters, as evidence that the studio is not fully dedicated to the statements made by Chapek in his March 7 memo.
Some employees charge that Chapek has used their inclusive content to waive off their demands and that his statements have stirred fears that the company’s past public statements about inclusion “were not decisions of morality and inclusion but of greed and monetary gain.”
LGBTQIA Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution employees and their allies also demanded Disney and its leadership take a clearer and firmer public stance on the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation. The bill would make it illegal to discuss sexuality or gender identity in public school classrooms from kindergarten through third grade, with parents able to sue for violations.
“Asking thousands of queer and questioning employees to wait for a DEI summit on March 22nd and April 13th is not the appropriate response, nor is promising the world that ‘inclusive content’ will be our solution,” the statement notes. “Queer folks are used to this sort of hollow promise of allyship and inaction — the difference this time is The Walt Disney Company’s recent dedication to inclusivity and diversity.”
The group says that Disney’s lack of real action in response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill will have a ripple effect for similar legislation in Texas, Tennessee and other states.
“Disney has every opportunity to self-actualize the help that this scenario so desperately needs. It needs to act to destroy this legislation and save the lives, in some cases quite literally prevent suicide, of the children, families and communities that will be deeply harmed by it,” the employees statement adds. “This is not a political issue. This is our lives. The lives of our loved ones, our children, our co-workers. This is our existence.”
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