Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has accused Disney of not expressing its disapproval of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to the state government before it was signed into law on Monday.
After weeks of controversy surrounding Disney’s silence on the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and walkouts by Disney employees, CEO Bob Chapek apologized and announced a pause in political donations in Florida. On Monday, Disney reacted to the law’s passage by stating that Florida HB 1557 “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law” and would be working with other organizations to get it repealed.
“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,” a Disney spokesperson said.
In a Tuesday news conference, DeSantis said that Disney had “crossed the line” with its criticism of the state government.
“For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it,” he said, “I think one was fundamentally dishonest, but two I think that crossed the line.”
He went on to say that Florida is governed by the interests of its people, rather than “the demands of California corporate executives.”
“They do not run this state,” he added. “They do not control this state.”
According to Florida state House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R), said DeSantis, Disney had never once contacted the state with issues about the bill when it was first proposed.
“They didn’t seem to have a problem with it when it was going through [the House],” he pointed out. “If his was such an affront, why weren’t they speaking up at the outset? And yet they won’t.”
“And then for them to say they’re going to actively work to repeal substantive protections for parents as a company that is supposedly marketing its services to parents with young children,” he continued, echoing the bill’s marketing as “pro-children” and “Anti-Groomer.” “I think they crossed the line.”
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which will go into effect July 1, makes it illegal for primary school teachers to provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, educators of all grade levels are prevented from teaching those topics if they are not considered “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students.
The debacle has proven a major headache for Disney and Chapek, sparking outcry from many in its labor force, Hollywood and social media. Along with Disney and Pixar employees and their supporters, the LGBTQ+ organizations GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and several others condemned the company for their inaction. When Disney attempted to smooth things over with a $5 donation to the HRC, the organization rejected the money, saying it was only “a first step.” In a letter obtained by TheWrap, Chapek – who had previously defended the company’s decision not to get involved – issued an apology to Disney employees.
“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,” he wrote in the letter. “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”
Disney did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.