ORLANDO, Fla. — Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from when the legislation passed.
Disney fans and employees alike are taking issue with the stance — or as some put it, lack thereof — from The Walt Disney Co. on Florida's controversial bill that limits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Ire over the situation has been mainly pointed at CEO Bob Chapek with his silence on the matter, until now, receiving backlash online as #DisneyDoBetter and #DisneySayGay floods social media.
Florida lawmakers passed HB 1557, officially called the “Parental Rights in Education” bill Tuesday by a 22-17 vote. Critics dubbed it “Don’t Say Gay” because it bars educators from teaching LGBTQ-related topics within a curriculum to students in kindergarten through third grade.
In a memo to staff, obtained by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets, Chapek addressed the "lack of a statement" on Monday. In the memo, Chapek also shared that he met with "a small group of Disney LGBTQ+ leaders" to discuss the bill and how it could impact the community.
"I want to be crystal clear: I and the entire leadership team unequivocally stand in support of our LGBTQ+ employees, their families, and their communities. And, we are committed to creating a more inclusive company — and world. I understand that the very need to reiterate that commitment means we still have more work to do," the memo reads.
Per the Los Angeles Times' transcription of the full memo, Chapek indicated that he didn't want a lack of a statement from Disney to be viewed as a lack of support.
"We all share the same goal of a more tolerant, respectful world. Where we may differ is in the tactics to get there," he wrote.
Chapek would go on to add that the best way for The Walt Disney Co. to bring about change is through the content and culture it creates as opposed to corporate statements.
"Powerful content that changes hearts and minds only springs from inclusive cultures, which not only attract and retain the best and most diverse talent, but also give those employees the freedom to bring forth ideas that reflect their lives and experiences. We must work together to ensure Disney always remains such a place," the Chapek memo reads.
Big names in the world of Disney have spoken out against the legislation like former CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Co. Bob Iger.
In a Feb. 24 tweet, Iger wrote "I'm with the President on this! If passed, this bill will put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy."
Disney LGBTQ animators like Benjamin Siemon also pleaded with Disney to act prior to the bill being passed.
"When they have donated to the sponsors and co-sponsors of the 'don't say gay' bill and they have made no position against this bill and they are going to continue donating to these politicians. They are essentially saying that this bill is OK. This bill is going to hurt kids," Siemon said, in part, in a Twitter video.
Siemon also called for Disney to "say [the bill is] wrong and called for certain political contributions to end.
After the “Parental Rights in Education” bill was passed Tuesday, Siemon wrote "today is an awful terrible day."
Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of The Walt. Disney Co. co-founder Roy O. Disney, also shared her displeasure with the company's stance.
"The times for neutrality are long since over. That train has left the goddam station. What is Disney for? Is it for pretending what America is about, or it is for defining a vision for a world in which fantasy, love, kindness, decency and loyalty are bedrock values," she tweeted as part of a lengthy thread.
Disney also called out Chapek for being "more worried about right-wing backlash" than employees and Disney lovers. She also called him the "wrong leadership for the wrong time."
In the past days, concerns were also broached on political contributions by The Walt Disney Co. with reports that backing had been given to politicians who supported the controversial bill.
Addressing the rumblings, Chapek noted: "While we have not given money to any politician based on this issue, we have contributed to both Republican and Democrat legislators who have subsequently taken positions on both sides of the legislation."
Geoff Morrell, Disney's new Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, is reported to also be tasked with reassessing the company's global "advocacy strategies," including political contributions.
"Our company has been a force for inclusion for a long time — and that will not change on my watch," Chapek wrote.
The "don't say gay" bill, as dubbed by opponents, now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for signature or veto.