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Disney to fight 'Don’t Say Gay’ bill: 'It should never have been signed into law' – Yahoo Finance

Disney (DIS) is fighting back against Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics have infamously dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially signed the bill into law. The media giant released the following statement in response:

Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.

Disney’s statement follows a string of employee-staged walkouts in protest of CEO Bob Chapek’s handling of the law, which prohibits classroom discussions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools for students between kindergarten and third grade.

The law, which will go into effect on July 1, states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Parents will be able to sue districts over violations.

Chapek, who initially decided not to speak publicly on the matter, opted to work behind the scenes in an attempt to soften the legislation. It didn’t work.

The executive eventually reversed course following intense backlash. He publicly denounced the act during the company’s annual shareholder meeting on March 9, but was still criticized for taking a soft stance.

Two days later, Chapek went a step further and directly apologized to employees in a company memo, writing in part, “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”

Still, some workers think the gesture was too little, too late.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek faced heavy backlash amid the company’s initial response to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“We expect more from the CEO,” Nicholas Luis Maldonado, a current Disney employee who participated in last week’s walkout, told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.

“I just want to be proud to say I’m a Disney World employee [again], but at this time right now, I’m just not feeling the Disney magic,” he continued.

A Disney spokesperson responded to the walkouts in a statement, writing, “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.”

The statement followed an all-company virtual town hall (dedicated to issues surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community), in addition to the revelation of a new task force that Disney says will “develop action plans to make more LGBT-aware content for children and family.”

The company also unveiled that Chapek and other senior leaders will conduct a global listening tour and meet with employees in the U.S. and internationally.

“It’s a step in the right direction by their statement, but so much more is needed to be done beyond today,” Maldonado said. He added that he hopes the company holds more town halls and open forums, in addition to further public statements both in support of the community, and “against any future anti-LGBTQ legislation.”

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22: Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Employees are staging a company-wide walkout today to protest Walt Disney Co.'s response to controversial legislation passed in Florida known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, FL – MARCH 22: Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World on March 22, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Employees are staging a company-wide walkout today to protest Walt Disney Co.’s response to controversial legislation passed in Florida known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

David Huerta, president of Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW), told Yahoo Finance that “this is a necessary fight.”

The California-based union represents several worker classifications within Disney, including costume and custodial.

“Our members expect Disney to be a good corporate citizen…I think for too long corporate America has been looking after its own interests, and not really understanding the impact that that they have on issues that go beyond the workplace,” he said.

Huerta went on to explain that big-name corporations like Disney have a responsibility that extends beyond their core businesses, referencing recent employee fights at Starbucks (SBUX), Amazon (AMZN), Kellogg (K), and Netflix (NFLX).

“I think workers realize that they have more power than then they give themselves credit for,” Huerta said.

He added that holding employers accountable is “a damn good thing” that’s “long overdue.”

“Working people do have power and their power is stronger when they stand together, shoulder to shoulder, than when they stand alone,” he concluded.

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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