Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Bob Chapek voiced disappointment on Wednesday with a Florida bill limiting LGBT discussion in schools, saying he called Gov. Ron DeSantis to express concern about the legislation becoming law.
Disney has been under pressure to take a public stand against the legislation that critics say will harm the lesbian, gay, transgender and queer community. It employs thousands at the sprawling Walt Disney World resort, which is the size of San Francisco.
Chapek said Disney was "opposed to the bill from the onset," but chose to work behind the scenes, relying on its longstanding relationships with lawmakers, to influence the outcome.
"I understand our original approach, no matter how well intended, didn't quite get the job done," Chapek said during Disney's annual shareholder meeting.
The Florida legislation has stirred national controversy amid an increasingly partisan debate over what schools should teach children about race and gender. DeSantis, who is seeking re-election this year, has indicated his support for what is formally called the "Parental Rights in Education" bill.
The Disney CEO said he had an "extraordinary conversation" with DeSantis, who assured Chapek that the law would not be "weaponized in any way" or used to harm or target gay, lesbian, non-binary or transgender kids or their families. Chapek said the governor agreed to meet with him and members of Disney's LGBTQ+ Disney employees to discuss concerns.
DeSantis' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chapek said Disney is joining a Human Rights Campaign statement opposing such legislative efforts around the country, and pledging $5 million toward organizations, including the HRC, that are working to protect LGBTQ rights.
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