Employees Stage Walk-Out to Protest Bill

Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., March 22, 2022.
(Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Disney employees in California staged a walk-out Tuesday to protest Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity instruction in grades K-3, after the company’s lobbying attempts to kill the legislation failed.

Video footage of the walk-out shows a procession of staff members, many wearing rainbow colors and holding signs with pro-LGBTQ slogans, shouting “Say Gay” as they march down the street, in a nod to the misleading shorthand progressives use to refer to the bill. The measure, which Democrats and LGBTQ activists have coined the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” doesn’t prohibit teachers or students from using that word.

The LGBTQ caucus of the Florida Democrats is reportedly now pressuring the party to cancel its annual fundraiser at Disney World because of the company’s supposed inaction in countering the bill, NBC News reported.

Accommodating the demonstration, Disney decided to postpone a management retreat originally scheduled for this week. Disney CEO Bob Chapek held a town hall meeting for all employees Monday to continue discussing the company’s response to the bill, which had many employees up in arms. All of the company’s three major content suppliers — Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm — have criticized Disney’s handling of the dispute, Deadline reported.

During the town hall, Chapek apologized for not immediately condemning the bill, given the fact that a significant number of Disney employees identify as LGBTQ. A couple of weeks ago, Chapek spoke with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in an attempt to dissuade him from rubber-stamping the bill. Chapek said he called DeSantis on Wednesday morning to “express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender kids and families,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. They were believed to have a follow-up conversation, but it did not change DeSantis’s position, his press secretary Christina Pushaw confirmed.

DeSantis has refused to budge on the issue, saying, “When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family friendly and catering to families and young kids, they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kids’ kindergarten classroom.”

“You have companies, like at Disney, that are going to say and criticize parents’ rights, they’re going to criticize the fact that we don’t want transgenderism in kindergarten, in first-grade classrooms,” he said. “If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the Communist Party of China? Because that’s what they do, and they make a fortune, and they don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP.”

Both the Florida House and Senate have approved the bill, and DeSantis is expected to enact it into law. Florida Republicans have claimed that rather than suppress the expression of young LGBTQ students, the bill is designed to restore power to parents to teach their children sensitive matters at an age they deem appropriate.

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