Walt Disney Co is pausing all political donations in Florida after an employee outcry over legislation that would limit discussion of LGBT issues in schools, Chief Executive Bob Chapek said in a memo to staff on Friday.
The latest announcement comes a day after the Hollywood Reporter published a letter by LGBT employees and their allies within Disney TV Animation criticizing Chapek as "tone-deaf" for his initial messaging on the bill.
Disney has been under fire for failing to take 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.
"Speaking to you, reading your messages, and meeting with you have helped me better understand how painful our silence was," Chapek wrote. "It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry."
The Florida Senate passed the legislation Tuesday which would prohibit classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in the state's primary schools, but also prohibits teachings "not age appropriate" for other grades.
The measure passed the state House last month and is headed to Governor Ron DeSantis for approval. DeSantis has indicated his support for the measure.
Employees joined with advocacy groups such as Color of Change in calling on Disney to withdraw funding from politicians who support the Florida 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 am an ally you can count on — and I will be an outspoken champion for the protections, visibility, and opportunity you deserve."
Disney pledged to increase support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states. It also is re-examining its political contributions.
Benjamin Siemon, a Disney animation writer who had publicly criticized the company's actions, applauded Chapek on Friday for responding to employee concerns.
"I want to thank Bob Chapek for taking this step," Siemon wrote on Twitter. "We have more to do as a company in helping make Disney a place the LGBTQIA+ community can be proud of again but it's a start."
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