Some Disney staff stage walkout over Florida LGBT law

Published
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
CEO Bob Chapek previously apologized for not speaking out against the bill

Disney employees have staged a walkout to pressure the company into actively opposing a Florida bill that bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in primary schools.

A handful of staff joined the walkout, with organisers accusing the firm of showing "apathy" to the bill.

Disney said in a statement that it "stands in solidarity" with its LGBT cast, crew, guests and fans.

The bill is formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Bill.

Critics have dubbed it the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

The legislation's text does not contain the term "gay", though it bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity for children under 10 or when "not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards".

It is expected to soon be signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, but it has faced significant criticism, including from the White House and their Democratic allies.

Supporters of the legislation say it will protect children from classroom exposure to topics deemed inappropriate by their parents, while critics warn it will stigmatise and isolate LGBT youth.

LGBT leaders at Disney have been pushing the company to speak out against the bill, as Disney is a major tourism driver in the state, drawing millions of people annually to its flagship Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It also employs 77,000 Floridians.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek told employees earlier this month in a memo that he was wrong to have been silent on the controversial bill, and on Monday said he would use the moment as a catalyst for change at the company.

Disney also committed to pausing donations to Florida lawmakers who backed the bill. On Tuesday, it released a social media statement saying it is "committed to creating experiences that support family values for every family, and will not stand for discrimination in any form".

But walkout organisers said in a statement that the recent steps taken by Disney leadership "have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat" presented by the legislation to the LGBT community. Among other measures, they want Disney to make the political donations pause permanent and to halt all construction and investment in Florida until the legislation is repealed.

They began a week of 15-minute daily walkouts with a scheduled a day-long walkout for Tuesday. Social media posts on Tuesday show a number of Disney employees leaving the company headquarters in Burbank, California, though it's unclear how widespread the walkout is.

Other Disney brands, like ESPN, Hulu and FX Networks, have issued statements voicing their support of LGBT colleagues, friends and fans.

Gov DeSantis has criticised Disney for denouncing the bill following the employee backlash, calling it a "woke" corporation and accusing it of buying into "false narratives".