Celebs Support Disney Walkouts Over 'Don't Say Gay' Bill
Disney employees all over the country staged a walkout, and took to social media, to express their anger and disappointment over Disney's role in the "Don't Say Gay" bill introduced in Florida.
Officially called the Parental Rights in Education bill, it is the latest in a wave of many anti-LGBTQIA+ legislations in the past few years. It aims to curb discussions and teaching sexual orientation and gender identity, "in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
LGBTQIA+ activists and opponents of the "Don't Say Gay" bill also worry that the bill has the potential to reach beyond the third grade, thanks to its purposely vague language. The bill also prohibits "classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner," potentially disconnecting children struggling with their identity from social support at school, and further distancing LGBTQIA+ history.
What Does Disney Have To Do With the 'Don't Say Gay' Bill?
Disney World is one of Florida's iconic businesses, and Disney employees want the company to more strongly oppose a new Florida law. Disney has faced due backlash for taking a soft approach to the bill, and opting to release a statement of support for the LGBTQIA+ community instead of condemning the legislation. Moreover, Disney has reportedly donated nearly $250,000 to the politicians behind this bill, which includes $4,126 to the chief sponsor of the bill. While these donations have been paused, employees want to see Disney take stronger action.
In a statement to employees during a virtual town CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged that Disney "made a mistake initially remaining publicly silent on the legislation and pledged to use the moment as a catalyst for change."
And on March 22, the day of the walkout, a Disney spokesperson said, "We know how important this issue is for our LGBTQ+ employees, their families and allies, we respect our colleagues' right to express their views. And we pledge our ongoing support of the LGBTQ+ community in the fight for equal rights."
Many employees see this as lip service.
Disney Employees Walk Out and Ask for Support
Disney employees have taken to social media to express what feels like a lack of accountability with the Disney Walkout Twitter account leading the way.
Walt Disney Animation Studio, Lucasfilm, and Disneyland employees have staged walkouts to show their support, holding signs with messaging such as "protect LGBTQ" kids, and chanting slogans like "Say Gay." Pixar also showed their solidarity to the cause.
Hundreds of Disney employees also wrote letters and notes to families and youth in Florida to express their support.
The lack of accountability on Disney's part has further alienated the LGBTQIA+ employees and allies.
Benjamin Siemon, an LGBTQ animation writer at Disney, tweeted, "We've heard apologies which is important but as Disney employees we have not heard any specific policies that help alleviate our worries that the company is just temporarily placating its LGBTQ+ employees & only pausing political donations until the media stops paying attention."
He further added that Disney has "deeply hurt its LGBTQ employees to save $28 million a year in tax cuts in FL. Putting profits over people isn't sustainable if you lose all the talent that helped you earn those profits. We want actions, not words & listening. #DisneySayGay"
Celebrities and Disney Stars Are Supporting the Disney Walkouts
Gabrielle Union, who is starring in the upcoming reimagining of Cheaper by the Dozen, sought to hold Disney accountable for funding and not condemning the bill. "Somebody asked me, 'Are you disappointed?' I'm disappointed when my order isn't right at In-N-Out. I don't even think that's a word that you could use for something like this, where children's lives are literally hanging in the balance," Union told Variety at the premiere. "We need to own that if you truly are taking stands against hate and oppression, you should not fund hate and oppression. Period. The damage is done."
Urging Disney to do better, celebrities like George Takei, Star Wars actor who has a long relationship with Disney, tweeted, "Today I support Disney employees walking out in solidarity for human rights, including those of our #LGBTQ+ loved ones.
We must make schools and workplaces safe for all marginalized communities.#DisneyDoBetter #DisneySayTrans #DisneySayGay Learn more athttp://George.gay." He has been vocal in his opposition of the bill, beyond Disney's involvement, too.
Disney employees have also expressed their love for their jobs at Disney previously, and their disappointment at the current state. Matt Martin, who has "Disneyland citizen" in his Twitter bio, wrote, "Anyone who knows me knows how much my job and the Walt Disney Company mean to me and how hard it is to get me to stop working—even during off hours. But here we are."
Josh Gad, who is best known for voicing Olaf in Disney's Frozen, agreed, "I too love Disney. But everyone must grow."
Kerry Washington, a longtime employee of Disney, shared a statement on social media, talking about how while she considers Disney "family," families sometimes disagree. She adds, "I don't condone the actions or inactions of Disney in this moment. I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQIA+ employees, and stand with them in this walk out today. Please know that you matter. Your rights matter. Your voices matter. I encourage you all to help their voices ring louder today."
She also urged her following to sign the petition asking Disney to "immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations to...politicians involved in the creation or passage of the "don't say gay" bill."
The Encanto team has also risen to the occasion and condemned Disney's actions. Jared Bush tweeted, "Today and every day. LGBTQIA+ rights are human rights." Lin-Manuel Miranda followed by saying, "'We don't talk about Bruno: We DO talk about LGBTQ+ rights!' All of us, ALL of us."
Finally, Raven-Symoné and the cast of Raven's Home shared a video clip where she calls the bill "ridiculous". In the clip, Raven-Symoné calls the bill "ridiculous" and says, "We don't like it!" She encourages viewers to "support, support, support" the movement to block the legislation. She ends the clip by shouting, "We walking out!"
The heinous bill will be in effect on 1 July if Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signs it into law, which he has suggested he will. Outrage by celebrities can help create the much-needed public pressure and draw attention to the issue.