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Disney has 'utterly failed' on threats to LGBTQ community over Florida legislation, group says

The walkouts are in response to CEO Bob Chapek's slow response to publicly criticize the controversial legislation.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from when Disney announced it would be suspending Florida political donations.

Disney workers are planning walkouts during their breaks every day this week to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response in publicly criticizing Florida's "Parental Rights in Education" legislation that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The act of protest will culminate next Tuesday with a general walkout by LGBTQ workers and their supporters at Disney worksites in California, Florida and elsewhere, the group of Disney employees said this week on their website.

A "full stage" walkout is also set for March 22.

The bill limits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Critics have dubbed the legislation “Don’t Say Gay” because it bars educators from teaching LGBTQ-related topics within a curriculum to students in kindergarten through third grade. 

Organizers asked Disney workers to check-in online with their plans to participate in the full-scale walkout for next week. “We must make sure we have large enough numbers to be successful," they said.

Statements by Disney leadership over the Florida legislation “have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation," the group said.

"As a community, we have been forced into an impossible and unsustainable position. We must now take action to convince TWDC to protect employees and their families in the face of such open and unapologetic bigotry," the group continued.

After facing hefty backlash for his silence, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, across internal memos and shareholder meetings, has addressed ire over the situation. 

"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," a staff memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets reads.

He'd later take a stance on the bill, publicly opposing it during a March 9 shareholders meeting. Chapek has also said he called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to express "disappointment" and "concern" with the bill.

"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,” said Chapek during his opening statements. “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.” 

The Walt Disney Co. has also signed the Human Rights Campaign statement opposing similar legislative efforts around the country and has pledged $5 million to organizations working to protect LGBTQ+ rights.

The Human Rights Campaign said it would not accept any such donation from Disney until the company builds "on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals...don't become dangerous laws." 

As a result of the controversy, The Walt Disney Co. says it will halt its political donations in Florida as it reworks its current system into one that "will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values." 

The legislation has yet to be signed into law by DeSantis.

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