Disney has come under fire for not taking a public stand against the measure, which opponents of the legislation say will harm the lesbian, gay, transgender and queer community. The company employs more than 65,000 people at the sprawling Walt Disney World resort in Orlando.
“Talking to you, reading your messages and meeting you helped me better understand how painful our silence was,” Chapek wrote. “It’s clear that this is not just a problem with a bill in Florida, but rather another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I failed you. I apologize.”
The Florida Senate on Tuesday passed legislation banning classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools across the state, but also banning ‘age-inappropriate’ teaching for others. classes.
The measure, which its opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed the State House last month and is headed to Governor Ron DeSantis for approval. DeSantis has indicated his support for the measure.
Employees have joined advocacy groups such as Color of Change in calling on Disney to withdraw funding from politicians who support Florida’s bill.
Chapek thanked the company’s employees for “sharing your pain, frustration and sadness” over the company’s response. “I missed the mark in this case,” he wrote to employees. “But I am an ally you can count on – and I will be a strong advocate for the protections, visibility and opportunities you deserve.”
Disney has pledged to increase support for advocacy groups to fight similar legislation in other states. She is also reviewing her political contributions.
Benjamin Siemon, a Disney animation writer who had publicly criticized the company’s actions, on Friday applauded Chapek for addressing employee concerns.
“I want to thank Bob Chapek for taking this step,” Siemon wrote on Twitter. “We have more to do as a company to help make Disney a place the LGBTQIA+ community can be proud of again, but it’s a start.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Aurora Ellis)