Disney employees stage walkout to demand action against 'Don't Say Gay' bill

More than 100 employees in different parts of the company walked out Tuesday.

March 22, 2022, 3:54 PM

LGBTQ workers and employee allies at The Walt Disney Company staged a walkout in protest of Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by opponents.

Some employees have been walking out each day since March 15 from 3 to 3:15 p.m.

On Tuesday, more than 100 employees in different parts of the company joined a full-length walkout and protest.

"The Walt Disney Company’s (TWDC) LGBTQIA+ community and their allies are determined to take a stand against TWDC’s apathy in the face of the bigoted 'Don’t Say Gay' bill put forth by the FL state legislature," the protest's website states.

Disney employees protest against Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, in Glendale, California, March 22, 2022.
Ringo Chiu/Reuters

"The recent statements and lack of action by TWDC leadership regarding the 'Don’t Say Gay' bill have utterly failed to match the magnitude of the threat to LGBTQIA+ safety represented by this legislation," the website says.

Opponents of the bill say it would shame and silence LGBTQ youth and could have major negative consequences on their mental health.

The bill prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten to third grade and would limit or prohibit what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity in other grades unless they are “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate,” a threshold criticized as vague by the bill’s opponents. It would also allow parents to sue schools that engage in these topics.

Disney employees protest against Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, in Glendale, California, March 22, 2022.
Ringo Chiu/Reuters

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been criticized for his response to the bill, first for his silence on the legislation and later for not outright condemning the bill in his public statements.

Chapek has since said he would pledge $5 million to groups advocating for LGTBQ+ rights and protections and added that he has contacted Gov. Ron DeSantis' office in opposition of the bill. He also said political donations in Florida will be paused pending review for any connection to the bill.

"We are hard at work creating a new framework for our political giving that will ensure our advocacy better reflects our values," Chapek said in an email to Disney employees. "I am committed to this work and to you all, and will continue to engage with the LGBTQ+ community so that I can become a better ally."

Several Disney companies have released statements of support on social media amid the March 22 walkout, including ABC News, Disney Plus, Walt Disney World, Pixar and more.

Some Disney figures, including ESPN sports anchor Elle Duncan, have shown support for the walkouts during televised broadcasts.

According to Duncan, ESPN employees have also been participating in the daily walkouts. Duncan herself took a moment of silence during her broadcast in protest.

Disney employees protest against Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, in Glendale, California, March 22, 2022.
Ringo Chiu/Reuters

"We understand the gravity of this legislation and also how it is affecting so many families across this country, and because of that our allyship is going to take a front seat, and with that, we're going to pause in solidarity," Duncan said.

ESPN's Carolyn Peck and Courtney Lyle also remained silent for two minutes in solidarity with their coworkers during the Women's NCAA Tournament.

"A threat to any human rights is a threat to all human rights," Peck said during the March 18 broadcast.

In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Experiences, speaks during a media preview of the D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, Calif.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

In a list of demands on the protest website, organizers demand that Disney "immediately and indefinitely cease all campaign donations" to politicians linked to the bill and "commit to an actionable plan" that could protect employees from discriminatory legislation.

Organizers also ask that the company reaffirms its commitment to LGBTQ employees and communities, make contributions to human rights advocacy groups and allocate spending and resources to invest in LGBTQ representation.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.